July 30, 2014

30 July 2014 Feet

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A very very dry day

Scrabble Mary wins, but gets under 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Sally Farmiloe – obituary

Sally Farmiloe was an actress whose soap opera career in Howards’ Way was eclipsed by her affair with Jeffrey Archer

Sally Farmiloe, actress and sometime mistress of Lord (Jeffrey) Archer

Sally Farmiloe, actress and sometime mistress of Lord (Jeffrey) Archer Photo: REX

6:58PM BST 29 Jul 2014


Sally Farmiloe, who has died of cancer aged 60, was a former actress who appeared in Howards’ Way, a Sunday night soap of yachting folk and adultery, but became better known in the 1990s for having a torrid affair with Jeffrey Archer, the author and one-time Tory Party favourite-turned jailbird.

The pair, who met through fundraising work for the Tory Party, began seeing each other in 1996 , but in 1999 a tabloid newspaper exposed them, bringing the affair to an end. Sally Farmiloe later claimed that Archer then reneged on a promise to pay for her legal bills when she sued the paper for libel in 2000. The following year he was jailed for four years for perjury after lying to a court about his dealings with the prostitute Monica Coghlan.

The same year Sally Farmiloe gave a “Kiss and Tell” interview to the News of the World in which she described how the pair had once slipped away from a Tory fundraising ball at the Dorchester Hotel to an underground NCP car park in Audley Square. “We began kissing passionately and at first we tried to make love in the front seat of [his] Mini,” she recalled, “but it was very cramped and awkward so we got out.

Sally Farmiloe with Lord (Jeffrey) Archer (LANDMARK MEDIA)

“I was wearing this fantastic white silk gown, one of my favourites, and he looked very dashing in his dinner suit. I’m ashamed to say we made love on the floor of this dratted car park. My skirt was hitched up around my waist. Little did I know it, but I got engine oil all over the bum and back of it.

“Afterwards I went straight back into the Dorchester looking immaculate apart from the streaks of engine oil down my back which I knew nothing about. There I was parading around and nobody said a word to my face. It was only when I got home that I realised the dress was ruined. Jeffrey was kind enough to replace it with a stunning gown that cost almost £1,000.”

It was not, perhaps, the kind of behaviour befitting a former debutante. But then Sally, by her own admission, was a “wild child” .

Sally Farmiloe was born on July 14 1954 in South Africa, though her official website claims that she was a real “English Rose” hailing from a “frightfully posh aristocratic background”. Her father was variously reported to be a landowner, National Hunt jockey and yacht broker. Some accounts suggested that Sally was born in Reading.

Her progress began in her late teenage years when she had her breasts enlarged to please a boyfriend who wanted her to look like Raquel Welch. The operation was not a success: “My breasts hadn’t stopped growing and after the implants they became huge,” she recalled. The implants were removed in 1982 .


Her long list of former boyfriends included the Marquess of Reading; the Woolworth heir Anthony Hubbard; Sir Clive Sinclair; and the comedian Cardew Robinson. In the 1970s she was a frequent guest at Stocks, the Hertfordshire mansion owned by the Playboy tycoon Victor Lownes. After she landed the part of the tarty barmaid Dawn Williams in Howards’ Way (BBC One, 1985-90), her then boyfriend banned her from socialising with other cast members after she was caught in a broom cupboard with her co-star Malcolm Jamieson.

In the early 1990s, with acting parts growing ever fewer, Sally Farmiloe set up in business as a social event organiser.

She met Lord Archer in 1996 while helping to organise a fundraising ball for the Conservatives at the Savoy Hotel, though it seems that the Tory peer’s chat-up technique lacked something in finesse: “He came up behind me, threw his arms around me and grabbed hold of my boobs,” she recalled. “Then he asked me, ‘Where’s your husband, then?’ I replied, ‘I haven’t got a husband’. He grinned like a Cheshire cat and said, ‘That makes things easy’.” She agreed to meet him for dinner the following night at his penthouse flat overlooking the Houses of Parliament .

Having her name linked to Archer’s as accusations of his perjury began to emerge did not help her acting career — though she reportedly considered an offer to go into the Australian jungle for I’m A Celebrity. Luckily an old boyfriend, Jeremy Neville, a chartered surveyor, stepped back into her life to offer support and they subsequently married.

Last October, however, four months after Sally Farmiloe had been treated for breast cancer, it was discovered that a secondary cancer had spread to her bones and liver. During a period in which the cancer appeared to be in remission, she discovered, sifting through her medical notes, a report which noted that in view of her advanced disease it would not be appropriate to resuscitate her in the event of a cardiac arrest. She was so shocked that she announced that she would be adding her voice to the campaign for more stringent rules governing do-not-resuscitate orders.

Not long before her death Sally Farmiloe met Lord Archer again at a book launch. She had intended to confront him, she told The Daily Telegraph’s interviewer Elizabeth Grice, but explained that her anger had melted away when they met. “I realised it didn’t matter. He was very sweet and charming and chivalrous. ”

Sally Farmiloe is survived by her husband, by their daughter and adopted daughter and by a stepson.

Sally Farmiloe, born July 14 1954, died July 28 2014


I agree with Simon Jenkins (Comment, 25 July), but I disagree that, “He (Putin) may be a nasty piece of work”. Given the vastness and complexity of governing the largest country in the world, and relative to the many psychopathic lunatics who have ruled in Europe, President Putin usually shows restraint, balance and thoughtfulness. Is Cameron, the daily-U-turn champion, doing a Napoleon or merely trying to drive up sales for the arms industry?
Noel Hodson

• Polly Toynbee’s failure to clarify that there are huge differences between those exploiting the tax relief system and those staying within the spirit of the Enterprise Investment Scheme (Comment, 29 July), makes it harder for UK producers to raise money. A recent report by Oxford Economics estimated that film production in the UK would be 71% smaller without film tax relief – currently the industry generates close to £5bn towards UK GDP. The EIS is meant to stimulate investment in SMEs (classically high risk startups) by giving tax relief to higher-rate taxpayers. It is not a tax avoidance scheme so long as the investor can still lose more money than if they hadn’t invested. The problem within the film industry is those companies that guarantee returns, don’t generate content, and use creative accountancy to inflate budgets.
Suzie Halewood, producer

• The 101 Ranch Real Wild West Show from Oklahoma (Letters, 26 July), was a feature of the Anglo-American Exposition at White City, London, in 1914. War was declared as the expo was winding down. Horses and vehicles from the ranch were requisitioned for the war effort. Buck Jones from the original War Horse film started his show career at the ranch and Wild West Show. A famous member of the show was the black cowboy Bill Pickett, who made two movies. He was definitely here in London in 1914. There is a lot more background to the War Horse legend.
Alex Bowling

• Christina Patterson (Comment, 26 July) might also compare Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle with Maxim Gorky’s autobiographical My Childhood (1913), in which he recalls his bitter struggle in a quarrelsome family, being beaten at home and abandoned by his mother, and “sent out into the world” at the age of eleven. Yet, with his insight and characterisation, as his translator Ronald Wilks observes, Gorky “comes to terms with a squalid, cruel and depraved world”.
Dr Mark Stroud
Llantrisant, Glamorgan

• Why is the Isle of Man no longer featured in your Commonwealth Games medal table? We Manx should be told.
Doug Sandle

Your article on deferring the state pension (Money, 26 July) says that “in purely financial terms, deferring currently represents a very good deal”. True that a person who today defers for one year is rewarded with a pension 10.4% higher. But they lose one year’s pension for ever – which means that they must live nearly 11 more years before recovering the money lost, much less gaining. For example, if the pension is £100 a year, a person who doesn’t defer will receive £1,100 over the next 11 years (11 x 100). A person who defers for one year will receive £1,104 (10 x 110.4). Is a gain of £4 after 11 years “a very good deal”?

In your example, a weekly pension of £150 a week, a pensioner who doesn’t defer will receive £78,000 over 10 years (150 x 52 x 10). If they defer for five years, they will receive a pension 52% higher (£228 a week), but they will receive it for only five years. So they receive £59,280 (228 x 52 x 5). So they actually lose £18,720 by deferring. Only after 15 years do they show a small gain of £1,560. This means a man retiring now must live to 80 and a woman to 77 to gain a penny from deferring their pension for five years. At the lower rate of reward for deferral recently announced, they must live to 88 and 85 respectively before they break even. Even at today’s low interest rates, it is far better to take your pension and save it than to forgo it. This is a serious matter. I know people who deferred on the basis of newspaper advice and realised their huge mistake only when it was too late.
Geoffrey Renshaw
Department of Economics, University of Warwick

• There cannot possibly be enough people with the skills in the Pensions Advisory Service and Citizens Advice Bureau to give useful, impartial guidance to all on how to manage their personal pension pots, which begs the questions, how and at what cost can this be achieved. The only way to deliver this advice efficiently and cost effectively is online, but there is no detail as to how this might work and how advice can be tailored to individuals’ requirements through such a generic portal. In short, this is a great idea but if it is not executed well, that is all it will remain. Next April is just around the corner and failure to finalise details quickly is a big gamble for the government – which risks not only people’s pension money, but a potential public policy train crash just before the general election.
Michael Whitfield
CEO, Thomsons Online Benefits

Your editorial (29 July) says “there are serious reasons why fracking is likely to be part of Britain’s future” but misses many reasons why it shouldn’t be. Fracking in the UK will just add to a stock of fossil fuels we cannot afford to burn if we want to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Shale gas won’t magically replace coal: the government’s chief scientist has said that without a global climate deal, new fossil fuel exploitation is likely to increase the risk of climate change.

The government’s headlong rush to frack is predicated on the process being safe. But many of the UK’s regulations are inadequate. Fracking is banned in France and a more precautionary approach is being taken in Germany on environmental grounds.

Fracking is not the answer to the energy problems of cost and security. The first focus of UK energy policy needs to be an aggressive push on energy efficiency. Then decarbonising electricity, through a rapid expansion of renewable power. Gas is a transition fuel through the 2020s, but shale gas is not needed for this purpose.
Tony Bosworth
Energy campaigner, Friends of the Earth

So Eric Pickles will have the last say in deciding whether to drill in protected areas (New strings attached to fracking push, 28 July). Luckily, the Unite trade union, organising over 1.3m workers, voted overwhelmingly this year to protest against fracking. It will support local protests against fracking and campaign for sustainable green jobs, not the slash-and-burn, short-term profit, long-term devastation of increased carbon emissions.
Tony Staunton
Unite Plymouth local government branch

Power companies will only invest where the prospects of profit are excellent, so why not nationalise this new power source from the very beginning? We have surrendered our coal, water, gas and electricity industries to foreign companies and the process is, apparently, irreversible. Why doesn’t Ed Milliband say that all shale exploration will be done at the taxpayers’ expense – with the taxpayer becoming the beneficiary?

Barry Langley

In your article (New strings attached to fracking push, 28 July) there was no mention of the huge amounts of water needed in the process for fracking shale gas and oil. This has produced well publicised disputes in the US, where underground supplies have been severely depleted by fracking companies, causing problems for farmers and other users.
Chris Roome
Staplehurst, Kent

• So, drilling rigs are acceptable, but wind turbines, which produce benign energy, are not. The community-owned, renewable sector is the way forward – benign energy production with no legacy problems, community involvement and ownership, great returns on investment, and a percentage of profits going to the local area. We have been part owners of Baywind Energy Cooperative for many years, with average returns of 6.37% – the return in 2012 was 10.4%. Go to energy4all.co.uk to see the portfolio of community-owned schemes across the UK.

Lorrie Marchington

High Peak, Derbyshire

Methane gas from fracking is not one of the “cleaner hydrocarbons” as your leader claims. Its global warming potential is 70 times that of carbon dioxide. Evidence from the US shows shale gas electricity has a higher carbon footprint than coal burning, even when methane leakage is low.

Electricity from waste is often cheaper than that from natural gas and avoids the release of methane were the waste left to rot. Instead of paying farmers to accept fracking, they should be well rewarded for sending animal and crop waste for anaerobic digestion.

And fracking companies could follow Greenfield Energy, now drilling below the carparks of a leading supermarket chain for geothermal heat. Most scientists agree we cannot burn more than one-third of the world’s proven fossil fuel reserves if we are to slow global warming. Why exploit new, unproven gas resources of uncertain yield? At far shallower depths there is sufficient geothermal energy to heat and cool buildings.
Keith Barnham

We need to reduce the amount of fossil fuel we burn. The promise of cheap energy for the next 40 years, realistic or not, will lull the public into ignoring the uncomfortable but imperative need to reduce emissions. It will also blind most people to the impact of any environmental damage resulting from fracking.
Lynda Newbery

I have chosen the place in countryside specially dear to me where I shall set up my anti-fracking camp. I am prepared to sleep in a tent. What holds me back is the thought that to be completely honest about what I’m doing I must give up using a private car for the rest of my life.
Richard Wilson

Ed Miliband: If you want a Photo Prime Minister, don't vote for me

I am amazed that Ed Miliband has failed to notice that prime minister’s questions are a futile exercise (Report, 28 July) that seriously diminish the dignity and purpose of parliament in the public mind. He now suggests that this ludicrous opportunity for MPs to ask glib questions and get glib answers should be offered to the public. The public may be too intelligent to grasp his proposed opportunity.

It is already possible for the public to question the prime minister. If you have an intelligent question, you can write it and send it to your MP, who is duty-bound to get a response for you. This approach allows his office to research and present an intelligent answer. They may not always do that – so you challenge them again. And you will have a record of your debate. You are more likely to get your issue explored via your MP than if you turn up at Westminster, as Ed Miliband suggests, and take pot luck on getting your question put to the prime minister and satisfactorily answered, off the cuff, within a minute. So, not a very bright idea, Mr Miliband. It did grab a headline, though, didn’t it? Maybe that’s all he’s about.
Simon Molloy

• There is nothing to stop Ed Miliband from putting the public’s questions to the prime minister during PMQs, perhaps selecting a question at random from a supporter of each of the main parties. This would encourage greater public engagement with politics in general and Ed Miliband and the Labour party in particular; it might also have the effect of improving the behaviour of MPs – and make it more difficult for the prime minister to ignore the question and answer another.
Jonathan Schaaf

• Ed Miliband’s suggestion that the public be invited to put questions to the prime minister could make the disillusionment with parliament deeper. Typically, the leader of the opposition asks a question inviting a factual response. The prime minister responds either with a jibe at the opposition or a recitation of government policy, which everyone in the chamber already knows. The speaker allows such evasions to pass unchallenged. Government backbenchers think their man has “won”. It won’t make us respect parliament to see ordinary people have their questions ignored in this way.
David Butler

•  By his own admission he may not be a square-jawed superhero, and in allowing himself to be filmed alongside Wallace and Gromit-style caricatures Ed Miliband demonstrates a self-deprecating sense of humour that is rare among the political class – and very welcome. However, looking back at Westminster and Whitehall, calling for more public engagement, is for another time – ideally when parliament is sitting. He should stay focused on talking about what matters: education, the economy, employment, environment, energy, health and housing for starters, with plenty of other topics awaiting attention – defence, foreign affairs, transport, the list goes on.
Les Bright

• So, Ed Miliband goes confessional, with self-deprecating humour (Report, 25 July). At a time when the economy was reported on the up, bombs were dropping on Gaza and planes were being shot out of the sky, what was this supposed to achieve? If it was about looking prime ministerial, it amounted to a spectacularly timed own goal. What he needs are decent media advisers, the present ones are going to lose the election for Labour before we get near the ballot box.
Paul Donovan

• It is good to see Ed Miliband rejecting the image-obsessed political style of New Labour (Miliband confronts image problem, 25 July). If he can just bring himself also to reject its Tory-lite policies and tell Tony and his cronies to get lost we might be getting somewhere.
Kate Francis

•  A message to Ed Miliband’s handlers, advisers, and PR “experts”: leave the man alone. He’s decent, warm, witty and just a tad self-deprecating. He is neither pompous nor self-important and I think the electorate will warm to that when set against the bullying, jeering, Tory spin machine. People don’t respond well to artifice: remember that awful grimace inflicted on the serious, if grumpy, Gordon Brown and be warned.
Roy Boffy

Pioneering aviator Lettice Curtis.

Pioneering aviator Lettice Curtis. Photograph: Associated Newspapers /Rex Features

In 1987 I interviewed the doughty pioneer pilot Lettice Curtis for my oral history book Don’t You Know There’s a War On? She spoke vividly about the hazards of flying planes from factories to airfields all over the UK: “All the big towns had barrage balloons. You had to find out where they were, but you were not allowed to mark them on your map, so you had to memorise them. There was no radio, of course, so it was all old-fashioned navigation. You just had to keep below cloud, and jolly well know where you were.” She mentioned one incident: “I was coming in to Langley when the engine stopped. I came down at a hundred miles an hour and the tail broke off. I was lucky, I was just knocked about a bit on my face and leg.”

While most of the facts in your article (Missed targets: when companies fail to keep their key sustainability promises, 21 July) were accurate, we were disappointed with the broad brush with which Rainforest Action Network’s (Ran) work with the Disney Corporation was painted. Has Disney fallen behind on its initial paper sourcing targets? Yes. Will Ran be closely monitoring the situation and working with Disney to ensure implementation of its new policy? Yes.

But the fact is that Disney’s policy regarding how the massive corporation purchases its paper is one of the strongest and most comprehensive policies that Ran has ever seen. It is a policy that addresses issues of climate change, human rights and rainforest destruction across all of Disney’s global operations, including all of Disney’s licensees and subsidiaries. This is a complex and challenging policy to implement in full – it will affect more than 10,000 factories in China alone – and Ran believes that Disney is currently working in good faith toward putting this policy into effect.

In addition, this policy has already had a very real impact, creating a ripple effect in Indonesia – the current epicentre of global deforestation. Disney has already excluded some of the most egregious rainforest destroyers on the planet from its supply chain and the company’s actions helped lead to a groundbreaking new forest policy from that corporation – a policy that Ran will also be closely monitoring for years to come to ensure full and meaningful implementation.

Ran greatly appreciates the incredibly complex and comprehensive nature of this shift in corporate practices. And Disney has been consistently proactive in informing the sustainability community about its progress and challenges on this front.

Ran is in this fight for the long haul, and we will be monitoring these policies closely. But so far we have every reason to believe that Disney is moving in the right direction and can serve as a critical lever for industry-wide change that will benefit the planet and the people who live on it.
Lindsey Allen
Executive director, Rainforest Action Network

The government’s work capability assessment (WCA) presumes that there are too many people on disability benefits because disabled people are too lazy or too comfortable living on benefits to work. It is founded in the idea that disabled people need to be harassed and hounded out of a comfortable life into finding work under the threat of loss of benefits.

No one is comfortable living on benefits. Disabled people are no more lazy that the rest of the population. The real reason that there are so many people on benefits is that society does not include disabled people. We do not have the same access to education, transport, housing and jobs. Social attitudes ensure that disabled people in the workplace are seen as a problem. And there are large numbers of disabled people who simply cannot work. Why should they be harassed? Why should they be hounded? Why should they have to live in fear? We know, and this report confirms, that many people have wrongly been found “fit for work” when they can’t work.

The courts have confirmed that the WCA discriminates against claimants with mental health impairments. The Commons work and pensions committee report recommends “improvements” to make the system more workable and less harmful. This is pointless, because it would not make the WCA any less wrong or any more useful. We call once again on Labour to commit to scrapping the WCA and to address the real problems that disabled people on benefits face in society. We call once again on the British Medical Association to send guidance on Department of Work and Pensions rules “29 and 35”, which allow doctors to prevent foreseeable harm being done to at-risk patients.

They didn’t improve slavery, they abolished it, because it was wrong. They didn’t amend apartheid , they ended it because it was wrong. The WCA is wrong, and it needs to be abolished.
Andy Greene Disabled People Against Cuts, Annie Howard Disabled People Against Cuts, Bob Ellard Disabled People Against Cuts, Debbie Jolly Disabled People Against Cuts, Denise McKenna Mental Health Resistance Network, Jane Bence #NewApproach, Eleanor Firman Disabled People Against Cuts, Ellen Clifford Disabled People Against Cuts, Gail Ward Disabled People Against Cuts, John James McArdle Black Triangle Campaign, Katy Marchant Disabled People Against Cuts, Linda Burnip Disabled People Against Cuts, Nick Dilworth #NewApproach, Paula Peters Disabled People Against Cuts, Rick Burgess #NewApproach, Roger Lewis Disabled People Against Cuts, Roy Bard Disabled People Against Cuts, Wayne Blackburn #NewApproach

Martin Dent taught at Keele University while I was a student there from 1967 until 1972. One or two of his eccentricities, still vivid in my mind, ought not be lost with his passing. When his phone rang, he would proclaim, “Dent here!” and then pick up the phone. Because he didn’t know about alarm clocks with repeaters, he had three alarm clocks side-by-side next to his bed, set a few minutes apart.

On one occasion, I was driving on campus behind a slightly battered Rover. The car was elderly, and when it met the speed bump up ahead, both of its rear passenger doors flew open, and a lamb emerged from each side of the car. Soon afterwards, a human emerged from the front. It was Dent, the Old Etonian who read Greek and Latin for relaxation, and told war stories about his time in Nigeria for fun. And now he had lambs on his hands.

Dent left his car, engine running, doors wide open, astride the speed bump. His lambs had gambolled away, in different directions. Being a coward, I drove away while Martin stood calling to his charges, telling them to “come back here!” as though they were dogs. Later, I learned that he had become a gentleman farmer, breeding sheep.

I am a bit puzzled by Paul Mason’s comments on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predictions for the world economy (18 July). According to him, the message is that the best of capitalism is over. It seems Mason and I have read different reports.

The report entitled Looking to 2060: long-term global growth prospects and released in November 2012 is, like all long-term forecasts, inherently speculative. One of its major conclusions was that growth will decline to 3% in the world and 2% in the OECD countries compared to, respectively, 3.5% and 2.2% during the last 15 years. This is low but not near stagnation. Many people in most rich countries will accept it because they consider leisure and the environment more important than growth.

The report assumes that immigration trends will remain at the present rate, which represents a large and at first scary number of immigrants. However, most informed people will understand that, with the local birthrate declining, more workers will be needed to pay for their pensions.

The report does not directly comment about a rise in inequality. However, it suggests that structural reforms, often code for anti-labour policies, will be needed in most countries to maintain some growth. In this case the need is mostly for an extension of the working life. The report also notes that while inequalities between countries will still remain, they will have declined considerably.

It seems that Mason’s article reflects his own views rather than the OECD report.
Francois P Jeanjean
Ottawa, Canada

Tensions in the far east

Talks are now under way between Japan and North Korea in an attempt yet again to resolve various outstanding issues, including the abduction of a large number of Japanese some years ago by the North Koreans (11 July). The North Koreans are promising to try to establish the fate of the many missing Japanese citizens. The results, of course, remain to be seen.

However, it has been reported that the Japanese government is considering lifting the sanctions that were imposed several years ago. The more cynical among us will be wondering whether any aid the North Koreans receive from Japan will actually make its way to the people who need it, or whether it will more likely go towards the purchase of even more luxuries for government leaders and top bureaucrats.

Meanwhile, the People’s Republic continues to spend vast sums of money on its military machine, while also testing missiles by lobbing them into the Japan Sea, while totally ignoring all protests from Japan and other countries. Here in Japan itself, the hawkish prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is pushing legislation through the Japanese parliament to revise the so-called peace constitution and give the so-called self-defence forces more teeth. Demonstrations by peace-loving citizens are ignored, as are protestations of opposition parties. Considering all the tensions in this part of the world, perhaps it is only a matter of time before we see Japan going to war again.
John Ryder
Kyoto, Japan

Scotland’s big choice

Scotland is making the same mistake as Quebec regarding its forthcoming vote on independence by failing to take into account the difference between reversible decisions and irreversible ones (18 July). Decisions at just over 50% or a plurality are reversible at election time; treaties require just over 50% but have withdrawal clauses, and thus are reversible.

However, the dissolution of a company requires a two-thirds vote of shareholders; it is permanent. In Quebec, the appointment of the speaker of the assembly, the director general of elections, the auditor general, and such, requires a two-thirds vote of the deputies; these people cannot be removed during their fixed-term of office, save for egregious behaviour. Surely an irreversible decision on independence should call for a muscular majority. In the US, some congressional decisions require enhanced majorities.

Legislators over time have ruled against razor-thin victories in matters of great importance in order to secure indisputable results. If it is possible to emotionalise a narrow victory, it is somewhat harder to do so under the two-thirds rule.
Jean-Claude Lefebvre
Sutton, Quebec, Canada

• Madeleine Bunting’s advocacy (25 July) that the Scots remain in the UK so she can feel better is like suggesting that the Greeks should have remained in the Ottoman empire to maintain some sort of Hellenic flavour and smooth the rough edges off the sultan.
Richard Blackburn
Coogee, NSW, Australia

• Nobody really knows what will happen if Scotland leaves the UK, for none can foretell the result of future seismic events geological, military or financial – whatever current or past experts predict.
Edward Black
Sydney, Australia

A fundamental difference

Karl Popper demonstrated many years ago that we cannot expect science to produce certain knowledge, so Michael Brooks was telling us nothing new in his reference to unshakeable ‘truths’ (18 July). But we should not substitute one dogma for another. Human linguistic abilities may be a quirk of evolution – after all, quirks are what evolution produces – but they do constitute a difference between us and other animals.

A slightly different anatomical arrangement permits me to type this letter, so it may not be a marker of fundamental difference. But my ability to pose, by whatever means, the question of whether a fundamental difference exists is, it seems to me, a fundamental difference between me and an orang-utan. Whether or not that makes me something special is a value judgment, not a scientific one. Either way the difference still exists and is, I suggest, significant.
Leslie Buck
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Gluten-free controversy

Your lightweight article on the gluten-free backlash (18 July) would have been more useful if it distinguished between coeliac disease, diagnosable by a simple blood test, and gluten intolerance, scientifically diagnosable by an elimination diet and challenge. The latter is best done with an experienced dietitian since there are pitfalls, the most common of which is to fail to eliminate the bread preservative (calcium propionate, E282) and synthetic antioxidants (eg Butylated hydroxyanisole, E320) from the challenges, since these can also affect people and are ubiquitous in UK and US breads. They are uncommon in, for instance, Italy, France and Spain.

We have many experiences in our 10,000-member Food Intolerance Network (www.fedup.com.au) of people who avoided wheat and gluten for years before realising it was, for instance, the bread preservative to which they were reacting. My personal view, from 15 years in wheat research, is that it may have been the introduction of the semi-dwarfing varieties of wheat by Norman Borlaug of the 1950s green revolution that has contributed to the undoubted increase in gluten intolerance, but of course millions did not die of starvation because of this conventional plant-breeding cross.
Howard Dengate
Safety Beach, NSW, Australia

The presence of ghosts

“What exactly is a ghost, anyway?” asks Joanna Briscoe’s article (18 July). She raises a pertinent question, since both scientific rationalism and Protestant/Catholic theology have no place for ghostly phenomena. Despite this, Roman Catholicism exorcises demons as active agents of evil.

A late 19th/early 20th-century phenomenon was the interest of several prominent Protestant theologians in ghosts. EW Benson, bishop of Truro and later archbishop of Canterbury, founded a Ghost Club at Cambridge, which evolved into the Society for Psychical Research in 1882. AN Wilson tells us that Henry James’s rather nasty little story The Turn of the Screw was based on one of Benson’s Ghost Club stories.

The Cambridge tradition of clerical interest was carried on in the 1950s by the Cambridge professor of divinity, HH Farmer. But officially the churches are still sitting on the fence on this issue.
Alaisdair Raynham
Truro, UK

Fox in the chicken coop

So Jean-Claude Juncker plans to tackle Google’s power (and maybe also that of Apple, Amazon and Facebook) with this prospect being one reason why Angela Merkel decided to back his nomination (11 July). Here, one proposal of Juncker’s to combat the power of the US giants is to harmonise telecom laws across the EU.

This is all very interesting because one source of the power of these giants is the fact that they hide their earnings in tax havens, with Amazon choosing to do so in Luxembourg. As it turns out, “Lone Ranger Juncker” was finance minister and then prime minister of Luxembourg for over 20 years (up to December 2013), during which time he didn’t seem to see much need to fight the “good fight” that he is preaching now.

And while he is “harmonising telecom laws” maybe Juncker should also harmonise some banking laws so that Luxembourg and the other tax havens are no longer able to provide cosy hidey-holes for corporate cash. If ever there were a case of a fox being put in charge of the chicken coop, this is certainly it.
Alan Mitcham
Cologne, Germany


• Since the bygone day I first subscribed to Guardian Weekly (the early 70s), I have admired the free-flowing translations of Le Monde articles, myself understanding the trials of translating, considered an easy task for those in command of just one language. I imagined a committee of analysers and correctors poring over the text. No, I check my back page and see the name of Harry Forster. My hat off to you Harry, or “Chapeau!” as they say here.
E Slack
L’Isle Jourdain, France

Please send letters to weekly.letters@theguardian.com


Your report (29 July) that the think-tank ResPublica is proposing that bankers swear a Hippocratic-style oath of good service made me wince.

As a retired financial services compliance officer, I can confirm that the traders responsible for rate rigging and interest rate swap mis-sales, and their senior management, responsible for the oversight of the traders’ actions via the operations of effective risk management systems and controls, would have been individually registered in that capacity with the Financial Conduct Authority and its predecessors. Moreover, each firm (bank) and each candidate, as part of that process, would both have been required to make fitness and propriety declarations, with follow-up checks then performed by the regulators.

The woeful paucity of prosecutions thus far, whether civil or criminal, against those guilty parties, with all of that machinery in place, just makes ResPublica’s suggestion seem all the more risible.

That said, I am sure that those tens of thousands of entirely blameless back-office financial services employees on below-average wages (yes, they’re “bankers” too), who looked on powerless, and in horror, as their life savings and/or livelihoods were destroyed by the so-called “Masters of the Universe”, would have no qualms whatsoever about signing up.

Jeremy Redman
London SE6


Hit Putin where it really hurts

Your editorial “Own goal” (28 July) is precisely right. The remote prospect of Fifa dumping Russia as host of the 2018 World Cup plays straight to the hands of their keep-fit expansionist President. Sanctions must be targeted where they really hurt. This requires the resolve of the EU as a whole.

Undermining Putin’s power at home requires a body-blow to the Russian economy, with the inevitable knock-on effect on his core support. The logic of arming Russian separatists would almost certainly be lost on middle-class investors watching their portfolios haemorrhage, or captains of industry seeing their businesses collapse due to supply problems.

In the hand-rubbing occupation of redrawing borders, Putin will not listen to Europe, not even to Angela Merkel. If he is to be reined in, then his own people must do it.

Mike Galvin
Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire

Nick Clegg wants the World Cup taken away from Russia in 2018. Four years is a long way off. The downing of the Malaysian plane may not be as significant then and may be overtaken by bigger events, even major wars, who knows? Will Nick Clegg be around to explain to the footballing world why the World Cup was taken away from Russia?

S Matthias
London SE1

So first we had Mr Putin, then President Putin, then “Putin”, and now you give us “dictator” Putin (“The dictator in his labyrinth”, 26 July). That only leaves “brutal dictator” Putin and we can go after him. I must go and buy shares in arms manufacturers and fracking companies. Oh, and renewing Trident is a shoo-in. Well done, one and all.

Colin Burke

Hamas wages a propaganda war

The world, and your publication in particular, seems to have forgotten that Israel is a tiny country surrounded by 300 million Arabs, the majority of whom are pledged to bring about her destruction. Israel is forced to build strong defences and yet, when these work, she is castigated for their success, as if it is unacceptable that Hamas has failed to murder more Israeli civilians.

Hamas know that they cannot win militarily. Their objective is to win the propaganda war, thereby convincing the international community to force Israel to accept their outrageous demands. To win this war they need as high a death count as possible, preferably with hundreds of women and children. That is why they site their missiles in schools, hospitals and heavily populated areas.

Tina Son
Edgware, Middlesex

The images of Gaza published during the recent lull in Israeli bombardment reminded me of similar photographs you published of Homs after the Syrian bombardment there, also directed at “terrorists”.

The invention and perpetuation of an international “war on terror” has allowed any militaristic regime to justify the most heinous war crimes by simply classifying their intended targets as terrorists, and all innocent victims as regrettable collateral damage.

The Israeli assault on the residents of Gaza was the latest but not the last domino to fall in a long chain of events starting with the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land outside their internationally recognised borders. Until this original offence is corrected there will surely be no end to the succession of action and reaction from both sides in the conflict.

Peter DeVillez


Scottish vote is about democracy

Mary Dejevsky’s piece on 25 July demonstrates yet again that The Independent, fine newspaper that it is, and its columnists, not to mention the English media as a whole, do not seem to understand Scottish politics.

She states that Alex Salmond is the “chief cause of the current tensions” when in fact it is the collapse of Labour in Scotland, a party that has been seen to be taking its orders from Westminster, that has created this situation, or should I say opportunity?

However this is not an election, it is actually a referendum. This is not an approval poll for Alex Salmond or the SNP, it is a referendum on Scottish independence.

Nor is it about romanticism, as cynical English commentators tell us; it’s about democracy and people living in Scotland having the opportunity to elect governments that will actually represent their interests rather than having governments that they did not vote for imposed on them. This is not a fight for the sake of a fight, it’s a struggle for democracy.

I would ask Mary if she could tell us when David Cameron is going to get off the starting blocks in his defence of the Union. The silence is deafening.

Gareth Harper
Largs, Ayrshire

As part of the UK, Scotland enjoys full diplomatic representation in 267 embassies and 169 trade offices around the world. In contrast, Alex Salmond’s vision is for an independent Scotland to finance around 70 to 90 embassies and 27 trade offices.

As part of the UK, Scots have a respected voice in the UN Security Council, the G7, G8 and G20. We are seen as one of the big players in the EU, not least because the UK is the second biggest contributor to the EU budget. An independent Scotland would never enjoy the same international clout.

Talk of a fairer Scotland, social inclusion, stopping London Tories from pulling Scotland’s strings, cannot hide the divisive political experiment that the SNP has embarked upon.

Scotland, as we have all come to celebrate in the past few days, is a great country. We have achieved greatness as part of the United Kingdom. We have forged our destiny together with our English, Welsh and Northern Irish neighbours, none of whom want us  to go.

Struan Stevenson

The other day I was asked if the comparison between the Greek economy and the Scottish weather would produce a new currency for Scotland called the Dreichma. My response was to say unlikely, for with two fish at the helm, a Salmon(d) and a Sturgeon, it would more likely be chips.

Peter Minshall
Tarbert, Argyll


Bring the people to Westminster

Your editorial (28 July) argues that Ed Miliband’s proposal for a public PMQs is “the wrong answer to the right question” of bridging the gap between the public and the political elite, and that it would be difficult to ensure that the selection of “average” citizens for these sessions was truly representative.

I support Ed Miliband’s proposal, but would go further by bringing “the people” into Parliament directly, by introducing Citizen Senators into a reformed and renamed House of Lords, selected by lot as per jury selection.

They would serve one-year terms and be given training. They would compose 50 per cent of the chamber, with the remainder made up of “Expert Senators” selected by an independent appointments system, and “Political Senators” appointed by the party leaders. The bloc of Citizen Senators would be sworn to consider legislation purely on its merit, eschewing political or other bias, much as jurors are sworn to serve justice alone.

This system would have numerous benefits, including maintaining the admirable expertise of the present House of Lords, providing an antidote to the increasing professionalisation of politics and being truly representative.

John Slinger
Chair, Pragmatic Radicalism, Rugby


Sir, Matt Ridley says that a recent Department of Energy and Climate Change report vindicated his claims about the use of sustainable biomass (“Another renewable myth goes up in smoke”, July 28). The report concluded that there is a right way and a wrong way to source biomass — this is why Drax has argued for tough sustainability standards.

The report was clear that sustainably sourced biomass delivers significant carbon savings relative to coal and gas. Better still, there is no shortage of such sustainable biomass. Drax ensures that the biomass it uses is sustainable and delivers real carbon savings. Even after processing and transporting the biomass, we deliver carbon savings of over 80 per cent compared to coal.

What it comes down to is the need for a diverse, affordable energy mix, including gas as Matt Ridley suggests, but also biomass and other renewables, nuclear and clean coal.

Dorothy Thompson
Drax Group

Sir, Matt Ridley’s critique of options for future energy supply should have shown why reducing energy demand should be the national priority. The lights then wouldn’t go out, as he warns, because they would be low-energy bulbs made in the UK, lighting highly insulated buildings that had been upgraded by skilled workers, all building resilience into the heart of the UK’s economy.

Alistair Kirkbride
Staveley, Cumbria

Sir, Matt Ridley is right about biomass, it is not a genuine renewable. The case for biomass assumes that its growth absorbs the same amount of CO2 produced as when it is burnt. The fact that these two actions occur a decade apart, on different continents and has to be subsidised does not seem to worry the DECC.

Sadly, the downsides as mentioned by Ridley will inevitably come home to roost with the cost of power rising to levels that homes and industry will be unable to afford.

John Spiller

Sir, Matt Ridley overlooks the Cinderella of the energy industry, our gas grid. A typical home uses five times as much gas as electrical energy, and in winter the ratio is even higher. The biggest sources of clean gas are waste and biomass. The electricity produced from these is only 15-30 per cent of their fuel energy whereas they could deliver 70-90 per cent of that as “clean gas”.

Agriculture, as a supplier of biomass, could become a major energy source without jeopardising food production. Instead of being a major source of emissions it could become carbon negative. This could be done much more quickly than the four or more decades Ridley suggests it would take to grow trees.

Bill Powell
Stapleford, Cambs

Sir, DECC’s report actually supports the low-carbon case for biomass. The value of this new biomass calculator is that it helps to draw the boundaries between good and bad practice in terms of carbon savings. World-leading regulations, basic forestry economics and generations of improving forestry best practice all drive a highly sustainable approach to the biomass supply chain. The calculator does not account for these real world factors, and yet still finds that biomass can deliver major carbon savings.

Dr Nina Skorupska
Renewable Energy Association

The war on illegal drugs has been an expensive failure – it is time to treat it as a public health matter

Sir, Ross Clark’s column (“Falling crime shows we are winning the war on drugs”, July 24) uses good data but draws the wrong conclusions.

The so-called war on drugs has been a failure at every level. After more than 40 years and an estimated $1 trillion spent, it has done nothing to reduce drug supply or demand around the world, not to mention crime. At the same time, as the WHO, UNAids and the Global Commission on Drug Policy have repeatedly shown, the ongoing criminalisation of drug users contributes significantly to the spread of HIV/Aids, hepatitis and other diseases.

No one denies the correlation between illicit drug use and crime, particularly in the case of heroin or crack. However, not even the Home Office study Mr Clark cites links the decline in UK crime rates since 1995 to the ongoing criminalisation of drug use or tougher sentences.

The idea that anyone is advocating a full-scale legalisation of heroin or crack cocaine is a typical straw-man argument. Mr Clark may know that heroin is already available on prescription in the UK. Access needs to be expanded to more users whose health and recovery could benefit from it, but no one is calling for heroin to be legally sold in shops.

Perhaps most importantly, we know from prescription initiatives around the world, including in the UK, that those with access to them commit far fewer crimes. The obvious reason: they don’t have to fundraise to pay the inflated cost of street heroin any more. No one is breaking into homes or robbing people to buy alcohol.

It’s time to get our priorities right. The best way of reducing drug-related crime is to treat drug use as a public health issue. Decriminalisation of drug use, as well as access to treatment, clean needles and harm reduction services are our best options to ensure that acquisitive crime is reduced and people struggling with drug addiction can get back on their feet.

Sir Richard Branson

Commissioner, Global Commission on Drug Policy

We the people elected our MPs to ask questions of the prime minister, so why have another question session?

Sir, Ed Miliband’s suggestion to create a public Prime Minister’s Questions is misguided (“Miliband and his image problem meet head-on”, July 27). We already have a political system in which MPs are elected to represent our views and concerns.

The representativeness of British politics will not be enhanced by weekly questions posed by people selected by an all-new superstructure of statistically representative selection. Indeed, that is not democracy. Rather, time and effort would be better spent supporting our current system, ensuring that MPs are empowered to represent their constituents, and their constituents are empowered to hold them to account for doing so.

That a potential leader of our country suggested this futile exercise suggests that he misunderstands the foundations of our political system.

Andrew Bailey

London, W9

Power cuts are tiresome but it would help if the electricity companies thought about their customers

Sir, The day after the monsoon weather here in the southeast we suffered a power cut. As this rendered PC, wi-fi and landline unusable I had recourse to a smartphone and entering “electrical outage” I found myself looking at a very helpful website with a comprehensive list of power cuts.

Unfortunately I don’t live in Canada, but congratulations to Hydro Quebec for such an informative site; if only the statutory bodies here in the UK could be as transparent.

Patrick Hogan

Beaconsfield, Bucks

Can we compare the V1 and V2 rocket attacks in the war with Hamas’s bombardments of Israel?

Sir, Colonel Richard Kemp (Opinion, July 25) might have looked more closely at the rocket attacks on Britain between June 1944 and March 1945. The V2 rocket took just five minutes from launch to impact. It flew too high and too fast to be tracked and there was no time for any warning. So we had no time “to race terrified to the shelters”. People went to work and children went to school as normal. We did, however, have posters that urged us to “Keep Calm and Carry On”.

Peter Barrett

Tunbridge Wells, Kent


Fighting the airborne threat in seaside towns

The growing problem of opportunist seagulls

One fell swoop: a seagull steals an egg from a clifftop nest on Inner Farne, Northumberland  Photo: GETTY IMAGES

6:58AM BST 29 Jul 2014


SIR – It is time for local authorities in our coastal towns to take emergency measures to control seagull infestation. The problem in east Devon has become serious, and in some Cornish towns it is at crisis level.

People eating food outdoors are the target of regular attacks if birds are nesting on nearby buildings. Sooner or later someone will sustain a serious eye injury or facial damage when these pests swoop in. Children eating ice creams are an easy target and are at high risk of injury.

The destruction of all nests, unless in natural habitats, should be considered as a way of encouraging seagulls back to their natural feeding grounds.

Jeremy R Holt
Honiton, Devon

Swim when you’re winning: Francesca Halsall (centre) proudly shows off her gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games Photo: GETY IMAGES

6:59AM BST 29 Jul 2014


SIR – I cheered on all the English swimmers at the Commonwealth Games and was delighted to see Francesca Halsall and Siobhan-Marie O’Connor win gold.

I stood proudly for the English national anthem at the medal ceremony for the latter, expecting to hear “God Save the Queen”. I was astounded and horrified to hear “Jerusalem” being played and called the English national anthem. Why?

Clive R Garston
London SW8

SIR – The first verse of “Jerusalem” consists of four questions. The answer to each of them is “No”. How then can this be a suitable anthem for anything?

John Wilkins
Ware, Hertfordshire

SIR – “God Save the Queen” will always be the national anthem in England, regardless of what the Scots decide in September.

It’s a bit of a West Lothian suggestion for a Scot (Letters, July 28) to suggest that Jerusalem should be our anthem.

Major William Mills (retd)
Coolham, West Sussex

SIR – At the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002, not “Jerusalem” but “Land of Hope and Glory” was played when English athletes won gold medals.

Christine Roberts
Wilmslow, Cheshire

SIR – In the photograph of Laura Trott, the England cycling gold medallist (report, July 28), her cycle helmet bore a Union Jack and not a St George’s Cross.

Moira Brodie
Swindon, Wiltshire

SIR – Graham Bond (Letters, July 26) asks whether croquet should be included in the Commonwealth Games. Men and women regardless of age compete in croquet and it would fit the Friendly Games’ ethos well.

Roger Gentry
Sutton-at-Hone, Kent

SIR – While watching the rhythmic gymnastics, I heard the commentator remark: “That was a dangerous routine.” This led me to wonder just how much danger you can have with a hoop.

Dr Michael Sparrow
Lifton, Devon

Fracking and wildlife

SIR – Will the new measures to protect national parks and beautiful views apply to wind turbines as well as fracking?

The overstated risks attached to fracking compare favourably with the actual adverse effects on vistas and wildlife from subsidised wind turbines. Wind turbines are responsible for widespread slaughter of birds and bats.

David Julier
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – What would be the “exceptional circumstances” allowing fracking in a national park?

Steve Cattell
Grantham, Lincolnshire

Mushed potatoes

SIR – This year I have grown a wonderful crop of Charlotte potatoes – plentiful, well-matched in size, clean and healthy.

However, cooking them is a major problem. Before they are half cooked they split open and by the time they are fully cooked they present only as a sad mush.

While strictly speaking edible, they are scarcely presentable in polite society.

Why does this occur and is there any way round this problem?

Peter Morrison
Bath, Somerset

Libyan evacuation

SIR – Is David Cameron still congratulating himself on encouraging freedom in Libya, where all British nationals are now being told to leave as it is not safe any more?

Where is the next target?

Keith Moore
Yoxford, Suffolk

Russia’s World Cup

SIR – Although it is rarely hard to disagree with Nick Clegg, his plea for Russia to lose the right to host the 2018 World Cup may not be without merit.

Had we known the future, would Germany have hosted the 1936 Olympics?

Robert Stephenson
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Day’s loss, night’s gain

SIR – I, along with many others, regret that Evan Davis is leaving the “Today” programme. He is audible, informed, articulate, and, unlike others, does not gabble or lose the thread of an argument.

I am sure he will do well as the presenter of “Newsnight”, but I shall miss him.

Suzanne Shillingford
Cowden, Kent

Anti-ant tactics

SIR – Regarding “super ants”, we had many years’ experience of the little devils when we lived in Greece.

These fire ants got everywhere, and particularly into electrical appliances and sockets. Many an evening was spent with no lights due to their chewing through power cables in the walls.

The only sure-fire way of defeating them was Blu-Tac; a thin layer spread around the edges of a socket or switch seemed to keep them at bay. I found it difficult to keep them out of some appliances though, such as the sewing machine or computer.

Alan Jones
Boston, Lincolnshire

Fleet of foot

SIR – In this modern, egalitarian age, why do new warships continue to be named after royalty? Times have changed.

Why not name them after well-known public figures? HMS Rooney would ring many bells with a large section of the populace.

George Harrison
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

The shortest way to set the length of shorts

SIR – Shorts (Letters, July 28) should be worn the width of a Woodbine packet above the centre of the knee cap.

Pat Hargrave
West Dean, Wiltshire

SIR – When I was a member of an East Midlands golf club, knee-length shorts were allowed in the summer.

The length was regulated so that, when kneeling, the bottom of the shorts should touch an upright matchbox.

Gerald Codd
Manorbier, Pembrokeshire

SIR – I am enjoying wearing the shorts I first wore as a midshipman during the Korean War. I would suggest the Royal Navy had it right: one inch above the knee.

Bill Woodhouse
Mappowder, Dorset

SIR – The correct length of a pair of men’s shorts, above or below the knee, depends on the length of the legs from the knee down. Nothing looks worse than long shorts on short legs. The type of footwear also matters, as do the dreadful socks that most men seem loath to leave off.

Carolyn Martin
Winchester, Hampshire

SIR – I have every sympathy with Patrick Wroe (Letters, July 28) regarding the slippage of his mini socks. The only elegant way to deal with this problem is not to wear any socks at all. Lightly cream your feet the first few times before you bravely thrust them bare into your sandals, trainers or leisure shoes. You will look and feel good and save on laundry costs.

Barry Hawkes
Bourne End, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Shorts of any length, outside a sporting context, are an abomination.

Christopher Barlow

SIR – Does a gentleman wear shorts?

Gerry Gomez
Walsall, Staffordshire

SIR – I agree with the proposition that voting for Ukip increases the chances of Ed Miliband gaining access to Downing Street almost by default (report, July 28). This is caused by the idiosyncrasies of our first-past-the-post voting system and the bias of the constituency system in favour of the Labour Party.

Surely, however, a Labour majority built on perhaps less than 35 per cent of the popular vote would not carry any meaningful legitimacy – certainly not for any kind of radical programme.

Yet a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for the tired and worn-out status quo. I don’t find either prospect appealing.

Howard Tolman
Epping, Essex

SIR – It seems odd to me that Labour is making it known that if Ukip gains enough seats, Labour will win the next general election. Must it rely on a third party to remove seats from their main opponent?

Considering the damage that Ukip has done to the Conservatives’ EU plans without a single seat in Parliament, does Labour really want to enter a new Parliament with Ukip holding multiple seats and Nigel Farage grinning like a fox from the back benches?

Adrian Kirkup
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – The main policy of Ukip is for Britain to leave the EU. This can only be achieved through a referendum.

A referendum requires appropriate legislation. That requires a vote in the House of Commons. The only party which will deliver it is the Conservative Party. Hence all Ukip supporters must vote Conservative for the Ukip policy to prevail. Simple logic, really.

Dr Peter L Kolker
Goostrey, Cheshire

SIR – In a true democracy, the essential feature of elections should be that people vote for those who represent the principles and policies in which they believe, not that they should vote in a negative or so-called tactical manner.

If one wishes Britain to be an independent sovereign state, then vote Ukip. If not, then there are three other parties to choose from, all of which are willing to see the country become a province of a single European state run from Brussels.

Do not vote for a party merely to keep another out, but because you wish it to win.

Colin Bullen
Tonbridge, Kent

SIR – The most depressing thing about yesterday’s headline, “Ukip may hand keys of No 10 to Miliband” is that such scare stories risk saddling us with the current Labour-Tory duopoly for ever more because folk will be afraid to vote for anything else.

What a dreadful thought!

Terry Lloyd
Darley Abbey, Derbyshire

Irish Times:

A chara, – I am baffled by your editorial (July 29th). It appears to be an ongoing phenomenon with the media and the Government here that nobody can actually be critical of Israel alone. What is the difficulty? The roughly 1,100 dead in Gaza, the vast majority of them innocent men, women and children, are constantly equated with the 51 Israeli soldiers killed in combat. The ongoing demolition of houses, hospitals and schools is constantly equated with warning sirens going off in some cities in Israel. Why?

Many of us expect our nodding, forelock-tugging Government to react as instructed by the US and the EU – the recent UN vote being a clear indication of that.

Why can our media not show us photographs of those sunbathing on Israeli beaches side by side with the photographs of the bombed beaches in Gaza where children have been massacred? Why not show us the photographs of Israelis cheering the bombing of Gaza from hilltops side by side with the photographs of the Gazans screaming with sorrow and pain after their families are wiped out?

When will our media cannot speak out? Why do The Irish Times and other newspapers, as well as telvision networks, tread an imaginary line of equality through this massacre? There is no doubt that there should be fairness in the media coverage of Gaza but that fairness of coverage is being constantly translated as equality of coverage. There is nothing equal about what is happening in Gaza and Israel. It is time for the media to stand up and call it as it is. – Is mise,


Whitehall Road,

Dublin 14

Sir, – Eugene Tannam berates the long list of eminent signatories who criticised Israel (July 28th) with the sentence “It’s called balance.” Did he miss the irony that the lack of balance in the response of Israel to Hamas is the biggest point being made? Balance cannot be achieved where one side is so much more powerful. The UN should be handed control of Gaza before any more children die. – Yours, etc,


Birchfield Park,


Dublin 14

Sir, – The images published by the Israeli embassy using the statue of Molly Malone would seem to be at odds with Irish values and perhaps the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989 if the intention was to incite anti-Muslim sentiment here.

Foreign diplomats may enjoy diplomatic immunity but are they welcome to spread division and prejudice in Ireland? And how do these images represent those Israelis who do not see Muslims as the enemy, not to mention the 20 per cent or so of Israel’s population that is Arab and Muslim itself? – Yours, etc,


Cap Estate,

St Lucia

Sir, – The Minister for Foreign Affairs believes Israel has been “demonised” by an Irish media, “enslaved” to the Palestinian cause. Perhaps he should also consider the international media and, in particular, the journalists of Palestine.

The International Federation of Journalists (which also represents some of the media of “demonised” Israel) records that four journalists have been killed in suspicious circumstances by the Israeli Defence Forces.

In addition, the offices of the National Media agency and those of Wattan radio station have been destroyed while bullets were fired at the offices of Aljazeera TV and staff were forced to evacuate.

On the night of July 28/29th an Israeli air strike destroyed the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa television and radio building in central Gaza City. Israel already has full access to the airwaves of this tiny enclave. Why does it need to silence other voices?

The dead journalists mentioned by the IFJ include Hamid Shehab, who worked for 24 Media (an independent Palestinian news agency) and was killed in his car by a rocket in the Gaza Strip area on the night of July 9th. The car was parked outside Shehab’s house and it was clearly marked as a press vehicle. Also killed were Mohammed Smirir of the Gaza Now website, Khaled Hamed of the Ray News Agency and Abdurrahman Abu Hina of Alkitab TV.

The Minister is a humane man and I suspect he wants to atone for Irish anti-Semitism. But you don’t do that by papering over possible Israeli criminality. All you do is create more anguish and more death.

The Minister is on record as saying “the truth must be told”. Who is going to tell the Gazan part of that truth without people like Hamid Shehab? Yours, etc,


Geraldine Street,

Dublin 7

Sir, – I believe that as long as the USA continues to give unqualified political and financial support to Israel there can never be a permanent solution to the Palestinian problem, of which the present pernicious eruption is merely a sympton.

Time for Barack Obama to earn his undeserved Nobel Peace prize. Yours, etc,


Crosthwaite Park


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin

Sir, – The efforts of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to broker a ceasefire in Gaza have been thwarted by what he describes as “a lack of political will”.

How much carnage must the civilian population of Gaza endure before world political leaders muster the courage to cry halt to this senseless slaughter, and insist that Israel honours its obligations under international law?

This is not a time for political niceties.The people of Gaza, already traumatised, are now trapped in appalling living conditions with no immediate prospect of escape from blockade or bombardment. Where is our compassion as a global community for their plight? Could it be that in the eyes of many, the people of Gaza simply fall into the category of, “those human beings who do not count”? Yours, etc,




Co Kilkenny

A chara, – I am amazed by newly appointed Minister Heather Humphreys’s widely reported comments that the upcoming 1916 commemorations belong to everyone. They do not!

The Easter Rising “belongs” to those people who subscribe to the principles of the proclamation, who are republicans, and who agree with the decision to stage an armed revolution to achieve those principles. If you do not – and many people choose not to subscribe to the foregoing – then it’s patently obvious that the commemoration of the Easter Rising does not belong to you.

Ms Humpreys is, like a growing number of public figures, engaged in manipulating our history in order to dilute its message and meaning, which still prove uncomfortable and challenging.

We would do well to monitor carefully the proposed commemorations for 1916 as it is obvious that in the hands of this shameful Government, with its imperial allegiances, the commemorations will be downgraded and abused. Is mise le meas,


Shantalla Drive,

Dublin 9

Sir, – The new 68c stamp commemorating the first World War features a recruitment poster picturing John Redmond with the message: “Your first duty is to take your part in ending the war – John Redmond, Waterford 23/08/1915”. Surely the views on the war of another Irish leader of the period also deserve such recognition. The relevant quotation is a bit long but perhaps it could be accommodated to postage stamp size: “Heroism has come back to earth. The old heart of the earth needed to be warmed with the red wine of the battlefields. Such august homage was never before offered to God as this, the homage of millions of lives gladly given for love of country. – Padraig Pearse, Dublin 04/12/1915.” – Yours, etc,


Upper Fitzwilliam Street,

Dublin 2

Sir, – It is now more than 10 years since Martin Cullen TD abolished Dúchas, the Heritage Service. Our national and built monuments are not adequately protected. When I questioned the OPW decision to allow filming on Skellig Michael, a general response was “it’s about jobs”. In the deep recession of the ’80s the OPW partnered with private agencies and owners to train young people in heritage protection and craft skills (stonework, wood-carving and preservation). These were jobs and skills geared toward protecting and conserving our heritage.

In the 10 years since the abolition of Dúchas, 39 sites in Tara were demolished to facilitate the M3 toll road. There are robberies of stunning stonework and the job of Dúchas has been divided between the Department of the Environment and the OPW.

Heritage is not adequately protected. We are not training the young in conservation techniques and we have no statutory agency for protecting our natural and built heritage. There are jobs in protecting our fragile heritage infrastructure in the long term: people require skills training.

The Hollywood machine is a temporary thing. Where is the long view on jobs, on awareness and on stewardship in Ireland?

It is the job of the Minister to propose a far-sighted agenda for the work of the divided heritage agency, and yet I have seen no comment or response to the OPW decision on Skeilig from her office. We are used to disgraceful decisions affecting our environment in Ireland. Why should we be surprised now? – Yours, etc,


Kenilworth Square,

Dublin 6

Sir, – Well done to Chris Johns for his excellent article (July 29th) highlighting the ESRI report that confirms that income inequality in Ireland is less than in many other EU countries. This is a welcome retort to the hysteria from left-wingers who speak of the need to tackle income inequality as if Ireland was run like a 19th century laissez faire economy.

It is seldom argued in Ireland that income inequality is in itself not necessarily a bad thing. Equality of opportunity rather than equality of outcome is rarely the refrain of public debate. Those on the left, and some who claim to be on the right, who wish to take even more from hardworking people’s wages will never understand that income tax is not their money.

The need to balance social welfare and tax policy remains a challenge. Why is someone who is laid off after working for 20 years receiving, in relative terms, similar welfare benefits to someone who has rarely if ever worked? What Ireland urgently needs is an individual benefits voucher system that rewards hard working people and encourages others off long-term welfare. Yours, etc,



Monkstown Valley

Co Dublin

Sir, – Talk of reducing the burden on low and middle income taxpayers through reducing the top rate of tax seems dreadfully short-sighted. Last year we had a deficit of €11 billion, so talk of tax cuts seems premature. A fairer way to help those on middle and low incomes would be to increase both tax credits for those paying the lower rate of tax and to raise the threshold at which the higher rate is applied. Finally, there may be scope to increase social security contributions from employers and employees. In 2012 social security contributions made up 14 per cent of GDP in the EU and 5.8 per cent in Ireland. Yours, etc,


Vale View Grove,

Dublin 18

Sir, – Maeve Halpin’s bemoaning of the capacity of the judiciary to curb abuses of power (Letters, July 29th) is like the driver of a Rolls Royce complaining about the air conditioning.

There are countless examples of where the good and the great have in recent years been dealt with appropriately by the law. It may not always have been in the vengeful way that is desired by the general populace but rather in the way allowed for by law and overseen by a truly independent and balanced judiciary.

Examples can always be quoted where the results did not sate the howling masses, but the law is about justice, not emotion. Our judicial system is among the finest in the world but like a lot of great things in this country, we still like to moan about it. Yours, etc,


Loreto Grange,


Co Wicklow

Sir, – As I approached a lengthy queue at passport control in Dublin airport last evening I asked about using the advertised self-service passport control facility. I was told that “self-service closes at five”. Does DAA /Department of Justice employ a different definition of self-service from the rest of us? – Yours, etc,




Co Dublin

Sir, – It has been a while since I read a piece of writing that made me feel proud to be Irish. What a warm and generous tribute Dr Eckhard Lübkemeier (Opinion & Analysis, July 28th), departing German ambassador to Ireland, paid to the country he called home for the past three years. I would like to give him my very best wishes for his future, wherever it may take him. Auf Wiedersehen. – Yours, etc,


Whitebeam Road,

Dublin 14

Irish Independent:

* C Bowman (July 29) is right about the one-state solution, although probably not in the way he intended.

He asks that if Palestinians and Israelis claim they can live in peace in two states, then why can’t they live in peace in one. But he should know that they can’t because Hamas‘s explicit goal is still to get rid of Israel and kill all its citizens, not just the Jewish ones but the Muslim and Christian ‘collaborator’ ones, too. Hamas do not want to live in peace with any non-Muslim people anywhere and want to create a medieval Sharia Islamic state. How can you ever have a rational debate with people who have that aim as their starting point? Israel is the perfect deflection for when the Palestinian leadership want to divert attention from their own corruption and failings, despite the hundreds of millions provided to them, to provide even the most basic social services.

Even the IRA at the height of its terrorist campaign wasn’t going to murder all Protestants if it gained control of Northern Ireland. Even if Israel agreed to the 1967 borders it had before it was again invaded by Arab armies, Gaza and The West Bank will never make an economically viable state. The real tragedy for the Palestinians is that by the world continuing to pander to such a myth, they keep them living in their self-created ghettos across the Arab world even longer, while it is Arab states who refuse to grant Palestinians, even those born in those countries, citizenship.

The one-state solution is easy but it takes guts to point it out. That one state should be Israel.

There is no difference between a Palestinian and a Jordanian, so the West Bank should become part of Jordan and Gaza should become part of Egypt, with all the Palestinians being given a choice as to which state they want to live in and granted full citizenship in those states within a federal structure. The West and oil-rich Arab states can stump up the cost of paying for repatriation and setting up new communities with sustainable employment, that is if most of it isn’t siphoned off through corruption. Jordan and Egypt can sign a peace treaty with Israel, fixing the 1967 borders and ratified by the UN.

Radical yes, but more realistic and credible than any current efforts to force a Palestinian state that will never last, due to corruption, economic viability and inter-Muslim violence, into being.




* Now is the time to let Israel know that a complete boycott of Israel might not stop until the siege of Gaza is lifted – all goods, and contact of all description should stop. Now.




* The efforts of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to broker a ceasefire in Gaza have been thwarted by what he describes as “a lack of political will”. How much carnage must the civilian population of Gaza endure before world political leaders muster the courage to cry halt to this senseless slaughter, and insist that Israel desists from its practice of collective punishment of the civilian population, and honours its obligations under international law? The people of Gaza are now trapped in appalling living conditions. Where is our compassion as a global community for their plight? Could it be that in the eyes of many world leaders the people of Gaza simply fall into the category of ‘those human beings who do not count’?




* I was dismayed to read your article by Deirdre Conroy (25/7/14) deploring the lack of abortion services in Ireland. She stated that we believe it is wrong to impose inhumane and degrading treatment on any human being.

While I could not agree more with this statement, I am finding it a little difficult to see how the unborn child fails to meet with the above criteria.

Perhaps Ms Conroy would like to explain?




* The bringing of arms by the Asgard and the 1916 uprising should be appraised from different viewpoints. When this is done, violence will be seen as a zero sum game. We are all interdependent and there cannot be a mutual gain from violence. John Donne said “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”. Those who glamorise violence are telling a lie and that lie can only be maintained by more violence or the threat of violence. The legacy of 1916 is poverty and emigration and the shameful neutrality in WW2 when the West was fighting for human rights against the greatest evil that ever existed in the world.




* Geraldine Lynagh’s “Top tips to achieve a longer life” (Independent, July 28) reminded me of the story of the man who visited his doctor for advice about living to the ripe old age of 100 years.

“Well,” replied the doctor, “go to bed every night at 8pm, give up the drink and the cigarettes, eat only food that is good for you rather than food you enjoy, avoid any activity that might excite you and resist the temptations of the flesh.”

“If I follow your advice and do everything you recommend,” inquired the patient, “will I live for 100yrs?”

“I can’t guarantee that,” replied the doctor, “but it will certainly feel like you have!”

It’s far more important to live life to the full and make the most of every day as we act out Shakespeare’s seven stages of life. Then we’ll have no regrets when it’s time to get off the stage. Carpe Diem!




* As Taoiseach, Enda Kenny I appeal to you, make contact with President Obama and other world leaders with regard to this madness (killing of children in Gaza conflict). Remember “the only way for evil to continue is for good men to do nothing”.




* We read in your newspaper (July 28) that the NCT organisation is to be more amenable towards motorists booking their cars in for a test. Isn’t it just a pity that they would not address the practice of backdating the test to the anniversary of first registration? This practice is there for the sole purpose of maximising the revenue from every car over four years old. No allowance is made for cars that may be genuinely off the road for long periods. In the UK the MOT cert is given for a full 12 months from the date tested, not backdated.

Brussels only dictated that cars be tested every two years or one year depending on age and did not stipulate back-to-back dating of tests. I know this as I complained to the Commissioner for Transport last year. He determined that the Irish Government was not doing anything illegal.

Illegal, maybe not, but morally dishonest, yes.



Irish Independent


July 29, 2014

29 July 2014 Bank

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A very very dry day

Scrabble I win, but gets under 400. perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.


Captain Brian Thomas – obituary

Captain Brian Thomas was a Royal Engineer who dodged mines to land ‘Popski’s Private Army’ in Venice

Brian Thomas

5:20PM BST 28 Jul 2014


Captain Brian Thomas, who has died aged 90, brought the commander of “Popski’s Private Army” and six heavily-armed Jeeps across the Venetian lagoon and landed them in St Mark’s Square in April 1945 just before the German surrender.

The month before, Thomas was ordered to take five ramped cargo lighters (RCLs), loaded with Jeeps, from Ravenna to the Po delta, behind the German lines. He was then to place them under the command of No 1 Demolition Squadron, better known as Popski’s Private Army (PPA), led by Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) Vladimir Peniakoff.

As dawn was breaking they caught sight of a large magnetic mine in their path, but altered course just in time and avoided it. A few miles up a tributary of the river Po they encountered detonators attached to heavy cables spanning the river.

The Jeeps were offloaded and the craft with their shallow draughts managed to pass over the obstacles without mishap. When German soldiers were found to be guarding some of the lock gates, Thomas called up one of the Jeeps and they opened up with a Bren and forced them to surrender.

On April 29, at the port of Chióggia, they rendezvoused with “Popski”, who had just returned from England. He had lost a hand in action and was brandishing a large, shiny, chromium-plated hook and shouting: “Nobody is going to stop us now, boys!”

Canadian troops were going into Venice from the north. Popski, who had long nourished an ambition to bring his squadron into the city, said to Thomas: “We will go in from the south — by water!”

Thomas observed afterwards: “The thrill of that moment can never be told properly. There were a few snipers to sort out and then we were going to experience something that no man had ever done. We were going to drive a vehicle around St Mark’s Square. The whole of the population of Venice seemed to be in the square cheering us as we went round. This was a marvellous moment – perhaps the most marvellous one experienced by any of our Allies in the war.”

Thomas (smoking pipe) and companions in Venice

Brian Ewart Thomas was born at Woodford, Essex, on June 17 1923 and educated at Hillcrest High School, Frinton-on- Sea. In 1940 he was commissioned into the Corps of Royal Engineers and posted to 945 Inland Waterway Transport Company.

He took part in Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, in July 1943 and landed on the mainland of Italy in September just before the surrender of the Italian Navy. His first task was to commandeer all the serviceable boats in the port of Brindisi for the Army’s use.

Early in 1945 he was sent to Pesaro in command of a group of men for training with RCLs. The usual role of these was lighterage transport after assault landings, but senior officers were excited by the prospect of concealing heavily armed Jeeps in the boats and bringing them up the Adriatic coast to land them behind the German lines.

On one occasion Thomas helped to deploy 20 full-sized dummy tanks. They were made of rubber and were used to deceive enemy reconnaissance aircraft taking photographs at high altitude. They were very realistic, and much amusement was derived from confronting a newly-joined sapper with one of them and ordering him to pick it up and take it away.

After the German surrender Thomas moved his unit to the island of St Giórgio, where they were responsible for all shipping movements within the Venetian lagoon. He was mentioned in despatches.

Thomas was demobilised after the war. He worked for an agricultural company and for Unilever as well as managing pubs in Cornwall, Hampshire and Sussex before retiring to a village in Surrey in 1990. He enjoyed horse racing, golf and bird watching.

Brian Thomas married, in 1951, Shirley Mitchell. She predeceased him, and he is survived by their two sons and a daughter.

Captain Brian Thomas, born June 17 1923, died June 3 2014


Coalition government ministers purr with satisfaction if not excitement over the economy reaching 0.8% growth in the second quarter of 2014 to regain 2008 levels (Report, 26 July). Is nobody going to make a comparison with 2010?

Office for National Statistics figures show that for the third quarter of 2010 (the last over which Labour can claim any significant influence) growth had reached around 1%. Within three years of the start of the financial crisis Labour had restored growth.

The coalition’s excessive austerity plunged the country back into recession followed by several years of flat-lining. Growth has returned in spite of, not because of, the government. Such “plans” as the government had were abandoned as £375bn of quantitative easing (which no one condemned as the equivalent of printing money) was pumped into the economy.

Other direct interference in the beloved free markets could also have been put to better use than stoking the London and south-east property boom.
Nigel de Gruchy
Orpington, Kent

• Despite their commitment not to use any of the income generated by the £375bn of quantitative easing, the latest figures are astonishing: £11.3bn of QE income by 31 March 2013 and a further £31.1bn of QE income during 2013-14. Despite this additional £42.4bn – which in itself reduces additional borrowing and compounded interest – the government is far off its commitments to cut government debt. Its policies are abject failures. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence accounts have been delayed – not for the first time. The resources and equipment that we rely on to protect us cannot be assured.
Mark Bill

Paul Mason argues cogently for state involvement in technical innovation (G2, 28 July) – but backs his case with an extremely poor example, Concorde. What benefits did that absurdly expensive (and subsequently junked) white elephant bring? Very little, as a study by the department of economics at San Jose State University showed, suggesting that “special interests manipulated the levers of government to create a product whose costs far exceed its benefits” – and what benefits there were accrued to better-off travellers at the expense of the general population of taxpayers. The study concluded that the development of Concorde was a prime example of the failure of government to function as it should. Pretty damning – and the exact opposite of what Mason argues.
Dr Richard Carter

• It’s very kind of the Mexican billionaire, Carlos Slim, to come up with a scheme for making ordinary people work into their 70s (Report, 21 July). It goes to show we’ve come a long way from the 1980s, when we were told that the problem of the 21st century would be what to do with our vastly increased leisure time because of the miraculous advances of technology.

Instead we have longer working hours, low wages and rapidly diminishing job security. The technology has indeed improved productivity but instead of this improving the lives of working people it has been hoovered up by the mega-rich, leaving the gap between them and the rest of us wider than ever.
Pete Cresswell

• Carlos Slim’s suggestion that we should all work a three-day week is not in our opinion the answer to “what is the future of work” but it does raise some important issues.

Workload pressures and culture already drive long hours in many workplaces and is an increasing challenge in an ever-demanding world. Working families need time to be together to function well, so asking parents and carers to work longer hours even across fewer days simply adds to their stress and impacts on their performance at work.

When every workplace recognises and culturally embraces employee wellbeing and work-life balance and when parents are able to readily access flexible and affordable childcare, equality for fathers at home and for mothers at work will become a reality.

If caring and work were shared more equally between men and women, we could achieve a more balanced way of working without mandating a three-day week.
Sarah Jackson
Chief executive, Working Families

• As I am not an economist, can we have a wall-chart explaining why the global financial collapse was all the fault of the previous Labour government while the global economic recovery is wholly the result of the policies of the Conservative-led coalition?
Professor Mike Elliott
Leven, East Yorkshire

Your correspondent’s argument that “landbanking” by house-builders is somehow the cause of the housing crisis (Letters, 23 July) is fundamentally misguided. The majority of land in a supposed landbank is actually land stuck in the planning system with an outline permission, waiting for an implementable permission so work can actually start, or sites already under construction. We estimate around 150,000 plots are currently in the system awaiting final approval. A recent Home Builders Federation survey of 23 large house-builders showed that just 4% of homes on sites with an implementable permission hadn’t been started. If we are to sustain increases in house-building, speeding up planning and getting agreed sites through so work can start is paramount.

Strategic land promotion involves the long-term identification of land suitable for development by house-builders and others. There is no guarantee that such land will ever be granted planning permission and it could take years and millions of pounds of investment to do so. Companies are judged by investors on their return on capital employed. Once they have paid for a site and have achieved implementable consent, getting a return by building and selling homes is the only sensible option. Sitting on land costs money and makes no sense for a home builder.

The organisations sitting on land are rarely house-building companies. People should stop peddling myths and focus on practical ways to provide land needed to meet housing requirements. Attacking house-builders for hoarding land allows anti-development lobbyists to ignore the responsibilities we have to ensure that the next generation have a good quality, affordable home in which to live. House-builders are part of the solution, not the problem.
 Stewart Baseley, Steve Turner
Home Builders Federation

The new secretary of state for education, Nicky Morgan, makes various pledges following the “Trojan horse” reports on Birmingham schools. Several of her pledges are valuable. The basis for them, however, is unsound. Peter Clarke’s report is not “forensic”, as Nicky Morgan claims (Report, 22 July), but a biased mix of uncorroborated smear, anecdote, hoax and chatroom gossip.

It reflects neoconservative assumptions about the nature of extremism; ignores significant testimony and viewpoints; implies the essential problem in Birmingham is simply the influence of certain individuals; discusses governance but not curriculum; ignores the concerns and perceptions of parents and young people; and is unlikely to bear judicial scrutiny. The Trojan horse affair has done much damage in Birmingham, both to individuals and to community cohesion.

Political leaders have key roles in the urgent process of restoration and support for curriculum renewal. Alas, they will not be much helped by the official reports of Clarke, Ian Kershaw and Ofsted.

They will, though, be helped by the unique strength and goodwill of people in Birmingham itself.
Tim Brighouse, Gus John, Arun Kundnani, Sameena Choudry, Akram Khan-Cheema, Arzu Merali, Robin Richardson, Maurice Irfan Coles, Gill Cressey, Steph Green, Ashfaque Chowdhury, Ibrahim Hewitt, Baljeet Singh Gill, Arshad Ali, S Sayyid, Massoud Shadjareh, Abdool Karim Vakil and Tom Wylie

• The assertion by Patrick Wintour (Schools face new curbs on extremism after Birmingham Trojan horse affair, 22 July) that the National Union of Teachers was “widely believed” to be one of the professional bodies mentioned in Peter Clarke’s inquiry that put to one side “systematic problems” affecting members in Birmingham schools is totally wrong.

First, the NUT has brought concerns to the attention of the local authority on a number of occasions and over a number of years – more so in fact than any other union. Second, it was the NUT that brought the Trojan horse letter to the attention of the local authority and insisted that the matter was discussed and investigated. We have not sought a single compromise agreement in schools supposedly affected by the affair. We always try to deal with matters by collective means or by addressing the issue with management of a school or its governing body in the first instance. Clarke did not ask us to help with the inquiry, although we would have been happy to do so. However, the outcome of the inquiry should enable things to move forward and the appointment of Bob Kerslake by the education secretary to oversee the local authority is a necessary and reasonable move.

Racism, bullying, misogyny, religious sectarianism and homophobia have no place in our schools. Where they occur they need to be dealt with effectively and quickly. Pupils, parents, schools and the local community have been under fire for months and have faced accusations, largely unsubstantiated, as to the ethos and practice of their schools. It is time for Birmingham council and local communities to develop a clear vision for education in Birmingham.
Roger King
National executive member, National Union of Teachers, Birmingham

EU foreign policy needs a strong leader

Jean-Claude Juncker with David Cameron: now Juncker needs to get a serious replacement for Cathy Ash

The world will be watching when the EU selects a candidate to lead its foreign and security policy on 30 August. With planes being shot down over Ukraine, the Middle East descending into sectarianism and tensions mounting in Asia, this is not a time for novices. Europe’s citizens expect to see the appointment of what Jean-Claude Juncker described as a “strong and experienced player” to coordinate EU policy and review its global strategy. European leaders must encourage the commission president to back this candidate with new specialist posts for the southern Mediterranean and the eastern neighbourhood, and the authority to coordinate the work of other commissioners whose portfolios touch upon foreign and security policy, such as trade, development and humanitarian aid. The council of ministers must put aside narrow interests about geographical balances, quotas, and personalities to select the strongest candidate. Europe’s standing in the world is in their hands.
Esther Alcocer Koplowitz, Franziska Brantner Member of the Bundestag, Erhard Busek, Daniel Daianu, Jose M de Areilza Caravajal, Pavol Demes Former Slovak minister, Andrew Duff Former UK MEP, Hans Eichel Former German finance minister, Lykke Friis Former Danish minister, Heather Grabbe, Charles Grant, Ulrike Guerot, Diego Hidalgo, Wolfgang Ischinger Former German diplomat, Gerald Knaus, David Koranyi, Meglena Kuneva Former EU commissioner, Sonja Licht, Irene Lozano Member of the Spanish parliament, Nickolay Mladenov Former Bulgarian foreign minister, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, Dietmar Nietan Member of the Bundestag, Christine Ockrent, Andrzej Olechowski Former Polish foreign minister, Mabel van Oranje, Andres Ortega, Ana Palacio Former Spanish foreign minister, Simon Panek, Laurence Parisot, Ruprecht Polenz Former member of the Bundestag, Charles Powell, Andrew Puddephatt, Robert Reibestein, Karel Schwarzenberg Former Czech foreign minister, Aleksander Smolar, George Soros, Volker Stanzel Former German diplomat, Pawel Swieboda, Vaira Vike Frebeirga Former president of Latvia, Karla Wursterova, Stelios Zavvos

Ian Birrell, former speech writer to David Cameron, is right to liken political funding to a political sore (No tennis, no backhanders, 26 July). However, he is wrong to equate the unions providing funds to Labour with rich individuals making donations to the Conservatives. Union leaders are elected by members; unions have to secure members’ permission to maintain a political fund by secret ballot at least once every 10 years; and union members have the legal right to opt out of paying the political levy. Contrast this with the unaccountability of oligarchs, hedge fund chiefs and private equity firms buying influence with the Tories. In calling for a cap of £10,000 on individual donations and the end of any other funding, Birrell appears to be trying to tilt the balance of funding further towards the Tories. While £10k would be small change to a merchant banker, it represents 50% of the median UK annual wage after tax. By all means look at alternative ways of funding political parties but let’s consider ways that make the funding more equitable and transparent.
Fred Pickering
Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire

Royal De Luxe Giants Take To The Streets of Liverpool

In recalling the role played by the splendidly named Miss England in persuading the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing to give official recognition to the Lambeth Walk in 1938 (From the archive, 26 July), should we perhaps also credit her with helping in the fight against fascism?  In the 1940s several film studios distributed versions of a Ministry of Information camp re-mix of footage of Hitler and Nazi soldiers from Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will set to the Lambeth Walk, annoying the Fascist leadership.
Tim Barnsley

• Does Santanu Das’s plea to remember the African and Asian soldiers who fought in European wars (The first world war and the colour of memory, 23 July) include the Indian soldiers ofGermany’s Free India Legion who fought in the Waffen SS?
Dave Young

•  I note that in 1927, the Retford, Gainsborough and Worksop Times described a 20-minute silent film thus: “Silver Buck, the cowboy’s only friend, is requisitioned by an army officer and transported to France for war purposes. Such is the cowboy’s love for his horse that he enlists and is drafted to France, where he finds Silver Buck the mount of an artillery officer.” The name of this 1927 film? War Horse (Morpugo tells of War Horse inspiration, 26 July).
Harry Foxley
Retford, Nottinghamshire

•  When will puppeteers, photographers and cartoonists forget about the Red Riding Hood granny image and realise that the average age of becoming a grandparent in the UK is now 47( Childcare: the grandparents’ army, 17 November 2012). The brilliant giant puppet in Liverpool (Pulling power: puppet in war tribute, 28 July) – wearing baggy slippers and walking with a stick – is much more likely to be a great-grandmother.
Judith Abbs

• John Humphrys doesn’t like Melvin Bragg using the present tense in speaking about the past (Report, 28 July). But he is quoted as saying: “With a bit of luck Melvyn will be on holidays because it’s August.” I know we’re a bit behind the times in Jersey but here it’s still July.
Kay Ara
Trinity, Jersey


I think many of us involved in the charity sector have been sceptical of Cameron’s Big Society initiative almost from the very beginning.

I am the secretary of a small Birmingham-based grant-giving trust: we give around £55,000 a year to small organisations in Birmingham and the West Midlands. Since the Coalition came to power the number of applications has risen so dramatically that we have had to tighten our guidelines to cope.

The nature of applications for help has changed. Four years ago we didn’t see applications from organisations concerned with the relief of poverty and hunger: we do now. Judith Flack’s description of what is happening in Derby (letter, 28 July) applies equally to Birmingham, and I am sure to many other towns and cities in the UK.

Has the Big Society initiative helped? Of course it hasn’t. It was just a political catchphrase. If the money that has been squandered had been given to my trust and those like it, we could have used it sensibly to provide help to the many small organisations that are doing so much good in our towns and cities (and were doing so long before the Big Society was invented).

The conclusion I draw from this fiasco is that you can’t direct people to do good in the way Cameron envisaged. People do it because they care and passionately want to help. They are the people the Government should be encouraging and helping financially. Instead, as you report (28 July), the voluntary sector has been damaged by the ill-advised Big Society push.

Bob King
Rushton, Northamptonshire


Whilst I applaud Judith Flack’s public spiritedness (letter, 28 July), it leaves me with a dilemma.

When David Cameron announced his Big Society initiative, I promised not to volunteer to do jobs which would normally be undertaken by paid workers, or which would undermine the values of public service. However, if I continue to take this stance, those most in need of help will suffer.

The rewards for cutting public expenditure have been disproportionately passed on to the most wealthy, in the form of tax cuts for the largest companies and richest individuals. In spite of this the least well-off are still giving a higher proportion of their time and disposable income to charities and not-for-profit organisations. I think it is time for a change.

Pete Rowberry
Saxmundham, Suffolk


Israel is the wrong target

Perhaps those who have attended anti-Israel rallies during the Gaza conflict might ask themselves the following questions.

Why did they not take to the streets during the past nine years since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza to protest at Hamas building stockpiles of offensive weaponry? Why have they not publicly questioned why the billions of dollars of foreign aid delivered to Gaza has not resulted in a new, modern civilian infrastructure? Why did they not publicly protest about provocative rocket fire from Gaza into Israel before Israel responded? Indeed, why have they not protested about the thousands of people killed in Syria and elsewhere?

People have confused the cause of the problem with the symptoms. Israel’s actions today are symptomatic of the situation caused by others.

The real cause of the conflict in Gaza is the unforgivable lack of action by the Palestinian leadership to build a better life for the people they govern. Those who take part in these anti-Israel rallies, and the media who jump on that bandwagon, make themselves pawns in this game, and thus become part of the root cause.

Michael Lewis
Edgware, Middlesex

Would Henry Tobias (letter, 24 July) specify which of Hamas’s demands are akin to Israel committing suicide?

Amid the current catastrophe, Hamas put forth 10 conditions for 10 years’ ceasefire. All the demands centred on lifting Israel’s illegal blockade on Gaza and allowing Palestinians their sovereign rights, including access to the Rafah crossing under international supervision.

Why does the Knesset find it hard to agree on terms that would allow Gaza to survive and exist? It is sadly ironic that Israel’s discourse constantly raises the fear of its own destruction by Hamas, yet Israel commences its own destruction of Palestinian territories through unjust blockades, indiscriminate bombardments, and settlement expansions.

Rahman N Chowdhury
London E1

Israel bizarrely claims that the objective of its bombing of civilian homes in Gaza is to restore “peace and quiet”. This must mean peacefully building more settlements on illegally occupied land while quietly strangling Gaza through the eight-year siege.

Felix Cornish
London SW17


Hamas lobs rockets into Israel, untargeted, and, though disturbing, doing minimal damage. The Israelis respond with disproportionate force, killing hundreds of civilians, and the West condemns them.

Then after an interval, Hamas resumes its provocation, the Israelis respond disproportionately again, and the West condemns them again.

Someone should tell the parties that to repeat the same action time after time and expect a different result is one definition of madness. Isis must be licking its lips at the thought of how many disaffected young men there are in Gaza just ripe for indoctrination.

Stuart Russell
Cirencester, Gloucestershire

‘Racism’ works both ways

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown once again feels the need to write about her belief that she lives in a racist country where black and Asian people are held back by whites who employ them (28 July). She should view BBC London television news; she would witness that the majority of presenters are black and Asian.

Employers may tend to employ people they can relate to. This doesn’t just apply to white British employing their own kind, but to Asian employers who rarely employ whites, and more recently Polish builders who will only employ Poles.

We, including Ms Alibhai-Brown, should accept this for what it is, rather than stir up inter-race relations. If it is “racist”, it works both ways.

Jeremy Bacon
Woodford Green, Essex

I was highly amused by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s claim that white, male Booker Prize juries exclude racial minorities from its longlist (28 July). Makes you wonder how such former winners of the prize as V S Naipaul, Salman Rushdie and Ben Okri ever got anywhere at all.

D J Taylor


Crazy way to combat domestic violence

Community resolution is not the right way to tackle domestic violence (“Violent partners being let off with ‘slap on the wrist’ orders”, 28 July). Victims have often suffered horrific emotional and physical abuse and are left in an extremely vulnerable position. To expect them to face the perpetrators and settle an abuse case out of court is nonsensical. This approach will further inhibit women coming forward and reduce confidence in the police.

Rather than focusing so heavily on perpetrators, police need to put victims first and let them know that their situations will be taken seriously. One woman a fortnight is killed by her partner in London.

However, there are pockets of good practice where police are doing pioneering work in collaboration with Housing for Women to tackle domestic violence. For example, in Greenwich, we provide a support worker in the police station to offer advice to both officers and victims in a dedicated domestic violence suite. These services can often mean the difference between life and death, but they are not available nationally.

Collaborative services between police and agencies need to be rolled out across the UK, to provide the support needed by victims of domestic violence, and to make sure that lives are saved.

Jakki Moxham
Chief Executive
Housing for Women
London SW9


Fabled land of prosperity

Ben Chu is absolutely right to be sceptical (“The economy’s back where it started. Had you noticed?” 26 July). Most people will have noticed nothing because these “economic facts” happen not in the real Britain at all but in its political clone, the fabled land of Statistica. The trouble is, only rich people are allowed to go there.

Steve Edwards
Wivelsfield Green, East Sussex


Judgement of the stars

The Tory MP David Tredinnick has suggested that astrology should be offered to NHS patients. Perhaps he should ponder on what the late Patrick Moore had to say: “Astrology proves one scientific fact, and one only: there’s one born every minute.”

Michael Yates


Gurgaon, India: students emerging from an English language examination Getty Images

Last updated at 12:01AM, July 29 2014

English is now out of the control of its British and American originators

Sir, You are right that the dominance of the English language may not work to the advantage of its native speakers, but not only for the reason that you give (leader July 26).

As a trade diplomat in the 1980s I came across a Korean company in Venezuela, and a Spanish company in China, both in competition with native English speakers and winning business because the purchasers were more comfortable speaking English with other foreigners on equal terms. They complained that the British spoke too fast and indistinctly, and used idioms they didn’t understand.

Sir Alistair Hunter

Broadstairs, Kent

Sir, I was surprised by your pessimism about English. You overlook the inherent qualities of the language. One only needs a vocabulary of only about 200 words to communicate effectively but, at the same time, English has one of the largest of all vocabularies, allowing a speaker to convey the most subtle of meanings. The issue of American spellings is of little consequence.

We have this wonderful opportunity to use our language to exploit our “soft power” in the world. Now that our government has resolved the problem of bogus colleges, we ought to expand our tertiary level education system and welcome genuine students who wish to study in this country. By encouraging young people from around the world to complete their education here, we build up goodwill for decades to come.

HJ Wyatt

Harrow, Middx

Sir, You imply that international use of a language depends little on the character of the language, and much on its value for commerce, learning and politics, and that there is nothing we can do about it.

I suggest that there is a little bit we can do to maintain the dominance of English, and that is to tweak it in good ways. Consider Noah Webster’s spelling: surely this is used internationally not just because it is used in the US, but, to a small extent, because it is more phonetic.

In past decades French speakers (particularly in Quebec) have introduced technical words that are better than ours: informatique where we say ICT, courriel (or mél) for email, domotique for “the science of small electronic devices used in household appliances”.

In English, it is no longer permitted to use “he” to include “she” so we write “she/he” and we could certainly do with a better word for that than “they”. A good new word, used by The Times, could go viral. At the same time we need to keep the core vocabulary needed to read Shakespeare.

Jonathan A Coles

Great Clifton, Cumbria

Sir, As a translator I have dealt with many scientific papers from the 19th and 20th centuries. Nowadays there is less call for translation because so many scientists publish in English.

English does have many advantages in that it is so flexible and willing to adopt words from elsewhere, but the inhabitants of these islands should not feel too smug about this — as you say, we have no control over which version of English predominates. And the speakers of other, displaced, versions, as well as the speakers of other languages displaced by English, had better get used to it.

David Wilson

Bridell, Pembrokeshire

Inviting the leaders of Israel and Hamas to start a new politics based on respect

Sir, May we use your columns to address the leaders of Israel and of Hamas. We have watched a painful 66-year cycle of violence since the state of Israel was created. Even when there is peace, it is characterised by attacks, kidnapping, injury and killing — and punctuated by violent wars. By our count, the conflict today is the 12th war.

(1.War of Independence/An-Nakba (Catastrophe) (1947-1949).

2.Suez Crisis/Sinai Campaign Tripartite War of Aggression (1956)

3.Six Day War/An-Naksa (Setback) (1967)

4.War of Attrition/War of Attrition (1967–1970)

5.Yom Kippur War/October War (1973)

6.Lebanon War/Lebanese Civil War (1980-82)

7.First Intifada (1987–1993)

8.Second Intifada (2000–2005)

9.War on Hezbollah/Israeli Invasion of Lebanon (2006)

10.Operation Cast Lead/Invasion of Gaza (2008-2009)

11.Operation Pillar of Defense/Operation Blue Sky (2012)

12.The current war (2014)

[The Israeli/Arab names are given (and translation of Arab name))

We urge you not just to focus on getting humanitarian aid, food, and water into Gaza, which of course is vital, but to think about alternatives to military solutions, since each attack merely leads to a counter-attack. If you continue using military solutions, we will still be witnessing deaths on both sides in another 66 years.

You are both intelligent enough to appreciate that military solutions, at best, lead to short-term advantage to one side or another, but will not lead to a permanent and true peace.

Your choice is to continue with your mutual myopia and one-sided perspectives, with mutual blame and mutual anger, causing horrendous loss of life, with all the ensuing grief, pain, and suffering, on both sides. Or to listen to impartial outside observers who are able to see two valid perspectives.

We, with the benefit of this “helicopter view”, and the rest of the world, clearly see that neither military nor past diplomatic efforts are working. These have led to zero trust, zero respect and zero empathy felt by each side for the other.

It is time for a different approach, which is to focus efforts on building mutual trust, mutual respect, and mutual empathy for those on the other side of the conflict.

Each community has the same human desire for respect, safety and freedom to raise their children in a trauma-free environment. Each person in both communities experiences the identical pain when they lose a brother, sister, cousin, son, or daughter.

So, we say to the leaders of Israel and Hamas, please sit down, talk without table thumping, to listen to each other and start a new politics based on the principles of respect, dignity, and empathy.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen


Ahmad Abu-Akel


Looking carefully at differences between Inner Mongolia and independent Mongolia

Sir, The caption to your picture “Mongolians go to the fair” (July 26) offers a confusing lesson in history and geography. If the boys were attending a Naadam “fair” in Chifeng, as stated, they were not in independent Mongolia but close to the southern boundary of Inner Mongolia, a supposedly autonomous region of the PRC, in the area of an essentially Chinese city northeast of Beijing. A red scarf round the forehead is not Mongol dress.

The rest of the caption is not about Mongol customs but about the practices of Inner Mongolia under Chinese rule.

In independent Mongolia the Naadam festival (celebrated this
year in Ulan Bator on July 11-15) has for many years featured women archers and riders. Independent Mongolia is the better custodian of Mongol traditions, protected by Unesco.

Alan Sanders

Caversham, Reading

The demolition of the old White City stadium should not be forgotten

Sir, You say that the BBC Media Village is built on “the staging ground for the 1908 Olympics” (“BBC appoints agents for potential White City site”, July 25). What you are talking about is the famous White City stadium, Britain’s first sizeable reinforced concrete structure, shamefully knocked down overnight in the mid-1980s to prevent it being listed as a historic building.

I remember coming into the BBC TV Newsroom and being shocked to see the destruction. The BBC put up a Lego building that was immediately dubbed the White Lubyanka.

Memories are short but to forget such an illustrious stadium so soon is alarming. Much more than greyhound racing took place there.

Michael Cole

Laxfield, Suffolk

Crustaceans should be humanely killed before they are cooked

Sir, Although I love the taste of crabs and lobsters, I have for many years refused to eat anything that has been boiled alive. Now that the Crustastun machine offers a humane alternative (“Crustacean liberation: chefs blanch at boiling crabs and lobsters alive”, July 26), their wellbeing should be included in the Animal Welfare Act.

Defra should be ashamed of its pathetic response that “The latest scientific research does not provide robust evidence that crustaceans feel pain”.

Science is always being shown to have underestimated the cognitive abilities of different species, so why not stop the risk of cruelty now, without waiting for the already demonstrable evidence to become “robust”, whatever that would entail — maybe requiring the head of Defra to throw a crustacean into boiling water and watch what happens.

Sierra Hutton-Wilson

Evercreech, Somerset


SIR – Unlike Judith Woods (“Give your dog a break this summer”), we are lucky to have two dogs that are happy to travel. Since the pet passport scheme was simplified, they have joined us on all our regular trips to France.

We use Eurotunnel, which takes just 35 minutes, causing no stress to the dogs.

What does cause stress is the amount that Eurotunnel charges for the privilege of having your pets in the car with you. The cost for car and human passengers on our last trip was £156 return, and that amount would have covered up to nine people. However, we had to pay an additional £64 for the return journey for our two dogs.

At Folkestone, Eurotunnel displays a huge poster stating that over 1 million pets have travelled with them to date. Quite a moneyspinner at £16 per pet, per crossing.

Linda Trotman
Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire

The Yangtze Incident

SIR – This week marks the 65th anniversary of the Yangtze Incident, when HMS Amethyst was held for 10 weeks by Chinese forces on the Yangtze river after sustaining a deadly attack.

On the evening of July 30 1949, HMS Amethyst secretly prepared to dash to freedom. What was not disclosed at the time, for fear of provoking a serious diplomatic incident, was that HMS Concord proceeded 57 miles into the Yangtze river to aid Amethyst’s escape.

Concord’s crew members were sworn to secrecy at the time, and it is only in the past few years, after being presented with indisputable facts, that the Government has acknowledged Concord’s role.

The present Government should honour the remaining sailors who for so many years have had their service denied.

Alan Ausden
Hythe, Hampshire

Power gardening

SIR – Petrol-powered “gardening” is a plague. It has gone beyond maintaining visibility on narrow roads and keeping road signs clear.

Outside fields or private gardens, not a blade of green growth is permitted to exceed the regulation six inches in height before it is smashed by someone wearing ear defenders and a face shield. From dawn to dusk, whining strimmers decapitate, flails smash hedgerows into right angles, and ride-on mowers reduce grass and daisies into dead wind-blown mulch. People no longer rake, they use petrol-driven blowers which cover everything in a thick layer of dust.

What is so offensive about cow parsley, herb Robert and buttercups? Can nothing be allowed to grow, flower and seed? No wonder insects and birds are declining.

Jim Doar
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

Secret letters

SIR – My mother took her letter-writing seriously: every Sunday afternoon, for two hours, she commandeered the sitting room, writing feverishly to the repeated strains of Peter Starstedt’s Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)? and Jacqueline du Pré’s Elgar Cello Concerto, both played at full volume.

I believe these missives were destined for her scattered circle of friends, rather than newspapers. In any case, despite her elegant script, one could never read a single word of them.

Yvonne Hill
Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, Denbighshire

SIR – John Holmes asks how long a gentleman’s shorts should be. In Kenya 50 years ago, they used to say that one could tell where a person came from by looking at the length of his shorts. Knee-length meant he had just come from Britain; four inches higher, and he was from East Africa; mid-thigh, and he was from Rhodesia; higher than that, and he was from South Africa. Longer than knee length? He must be American.

John Noble
Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire

SIR – If legs are knobbly, bandy, hairy or bowed, shorts should be ankle length.

Frances Pearson
Formby, Lancashire

SIR – Shorts should be long enough to cover the serpent tattoo creeping up so many exposed legs. Same rule for ladies.

Linda Bos
Midhurst, West Sussex

SIR – When kneeling, the hem of a gentleman’s shorts should just brush the surface on which he is kneeling.

Howard Rees

SIR – The military point of view on the length of shorts was once very clear. In Palestine, in 1947, after a series of unauthorised alterations to items of uniform, the following order was posted:

Shorts (short) will not be cut shorter any longer.

Gordon Le Pard
Charlton Down, Dorset

SIR – After much mocking from my daughters, I stopped wearing long socks with my above-the-knee-length shorts, and now wear those useless white mini-socks. These ride down under one’s heel and become uncomfortable.

Patrick Wroe
Felixstowe, Suffolk

A fair benefits system

SIR – Esther McVey, the employment minister, is a welcome addition to the Conservative Party senior ranks, and makes a good point when she indicates that anyone could fall on hard times and find themselves in need of state support (Interview, July 26). Indeed, the prime aim of the welfare system is to provide a safety net.

However, it should not be manipulated in order to provide people with an alternative to working for a living. Too many people, who have worked hard all their lives and paid their dues, suddenly find themselves in dire need through ill health or unlucky circumstances, yet they are denied payments equal to those made to people who have contributed nothing.

Mick Richards
Llanfair Waterdine, Shropshire

SIR – The employment minister says it is “inevitable” that Britain will have to import some foreign workers to do skilled jobs.

What is wrong with training more British people in the skills of which we are short?

Stanley Eckersley
Pudsey, West Yorkshire

Singing for England

SIR – I am delighted to see Jerusalem being used as the national anthem for English gold-winning athletes at the Commonwealth Games. Sir Hubert Parry’s anthem is not only marvellous, but is more appropriate than using the British national anthem, which is so commonly used by England in other sporting arenas.

In future football and rugby matches, I look forward to hearing Jerusalem ringing out at Wembley and Twickenham rather than God Save the Queen.

Alex Orr

SIR – When England play in the Six Nations rugby tournament, we rightly play God Save the Queen, so why Jerusalem in the Commonwealth Games?

Malcolm Allen
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

Fox, glove

SIR – Foxes lived under our garden shed in west London for 30 years. We neither encouraged nor discouraged them, but when our next-door neighbours had a baby, they were concerned for its safety, especially as it was on the roof of their garden studio that the whole fox family could often be found warming themselves in the sun.

The only time we witnessed a death among the foxes was when we found a dead cub with no visible injury in the garden. But there was a rubber glove nearby.

A visit to the local vet produced no answers, except that a post-mortem examination would cost at least £25, so we buried the body among the flowers. Alas, there were no foxgloves.

Eric Hayman
Bournemouth, Dorset

Display of power

SIR – While visiting Clouds Hill, the former home of Lawrence of Arabia, on the occasion of our wedding anniversary, my wife and I saw a tank. Even though Clouds Hill is near Bovington Camp, we were still somewhat surprised, especially as another tank trundled by later on. Bearing in mind all the recent military cuts, this was somewhat reassuring.

Your readers should know that we definitely have at least two tanks – unless it was the same one going round again.

Roger Simmens
Lyndhurst, Hampshire

SIR – Brandon Lewis, the planning minister, claims that local communities now have a bigger say about where new housing goes.

Not in our village. Some of us wanted to prevent the last blade of grass within the village from being built upon, and so suggested that the previous village boundary, outside which no development had hitherto been permitted, become a cordon within which no future development would be sanctioned, while allowing a limited amout outside it. We were told the law did not permit this. So much for localism. I suspect the decrease in the number of people opposed to new homes reflects a realisation that the cards are stacked against those wishing to preserve their villages in the face of unwanted and unsympathetic housing estates.

Richard Hawker
Hockering, Norfolk

SIR – I cannot help wondering where the planning minister lives. Is it in an already built-up area, or is it in the countryside, with beautiful views?

This Coalition seems bent on marring our beautiful land with buildings, and our coastal views with wind farms.

Marion Tremlett
Tadworth, Surrey

SIR – Why have more house-building in the already overcrowded South East?

We are planning to build enhanced rail links to “open up” other parts of the country. Surely, we should stop building in the South East and concentrate on encouraging growth in the rest of the country. This would encourage population movement. Houses are be cheaper in those areas, more people will choose to live there and businesses will move to those areas or start up there, in order to take advantage of the labour pool.

Terry Hodges
Holyhead, Anglesey

SIR – Having spent much of my career dealing with residential planning applications, I have seen a lot of Nimbyism.

Planning applications should be determined solely with regard to town planning policy and regulations. If the application meets the requirements, it should be granted; if it fails to comply, it should be refused.

What the neighbours think is irrelevant. Their views are invariably uninformed and always biased, often to the point of hysteria.

Councillors ought to learn their planning policy and not try to curry favour with their constituents by supporting the unsupportable.

John Cuthbert
Sevenoaks, Kent

SIR – Stop picking on Nimbys. Worse by far is the Wigwam – “where it goes won’t affect me” – who will support any ghastly scheme as long as it’s somewhere else.

Mike Pearce
Dargate, Kent

Irish Times:

Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 02:00

First published: Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 02:00

Sir, – There has been much made of the fact that Hamas refused to accept an earlier truce in Gaza proposed by Egypt. Yet it is strange that western politicians and the western media (except Michael Jansen, July 25th) have been so silent about the 10-point Hamas proposals, endorsed by Fatah, that were released last week. They are perfectly reasonable and would lead to an immediate permanent ceasefire and negotiations on a solution that would make life better and safer for both the people of Gaza and of Israel.

None of these demands are new and the UN and NGOs have continually called for some of them, including the lifting of the crippling siege.

UNWRA spokesmen, the head of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and even many media reporters in Gaza have all noted last week that the situation in Gaza cannot go back to the status quo. Life was intolerable before this recent Israeli onslaught; now it is a living hell.

The Irish Government should support a ceasefire and negotiations on the basis of these 10 points instead of staying silent, as it disgracefully did at the UN vote on an inquiry last week. How many more Palestinian women and children need to be killed, horribly injured or traumatised before Israel and western governments come to their senses and stop this slaughter and destruction? Israel’s reluctance to engage meaningfully with these reasonable proposals demonstrates yet again that its current military onslaught has little to do with rocket fire from Gaza but is instead an attempt to scupper the Hamas/Fatah unity agreement, as the the last thing Israel wants is a unified Palestinian polity and the threat of the outbreak of a lasting peace. Yours, etc,


PRO Irish Anti-War


PO Box 9260,

Dublin 1

Sir, – That the crisis in Gaza is causing immeasurable suffering is beyond dispute. The photographic and video footage circulating on social media is too graphic for your paper or mainstream television to use.

Even for a generation which has become increasingly immune to human suffering, the images of dead child after dead child we have seen cannot fail to churn even the hardest of stomachs or the coldest of hearts.

Ireland and our nearest neighbour Britain have known more than our fair share of terrorism. However, neither side ever resorted to the indiscriminate use of force currently being wielded by Israel, apparently a democratic state.

I am no apologist for terrorism. Israel and the Jewish people have suffered more than many over the years but their current behaviour demands a response. Ireland and the global community have been sadly lacking to date. By doing nothing we are all complicit. – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow

Sir, – Pro-Palestinian groups in Ireland have repeatedly called for the land and sea blockade which is being imposed on the Gaza Strip to be lifted in order for food and medical supplies to be brought into the enclave. Perhaps then they can explain how the area comes to be so well-stocked and regularly replenished with rockets and missiles?

Clearly Hamas has supply routes into Gaza, but is choosing to use it to import weapons rather than supplies for its own people. Can its sympathisers in Ireland please explain why this might be? – Yours, etc,


Mount Tallant Avenue,

Dublin 6W

Sir, – The long list of eminent signatories to the letter regarding the conflict in Gaza (July 28th) state that “We are witnessing the third major Israeli military offensive in Gaza in six years”. They forget to add “all three offensives initiated by rocket fire on civilian targets in Israel by Hamas, the elected government of Gaza, which refuses to recognise Israel and seeks the destruction of all Jews.” It’s called balance. Incidentally, when did trade union leaders assume the role of judgement on world affairs on behalf of their members? Yours, etc,


Monalea Park,

Dublin 24

Sir, – Paul Williams (July 26th) excuses Israeli conduct on the ground that they have given the Palestinians plenty of warning by dropping leaflets, sending  texts and trying to avoid civilian deaths.  Why then have so many Palestinians been killed – the vast majority of them civilians? One might also ask where they can escape to.  They are blockaded on all sides by  Israelis, so where are the escape routes available? Yours, etc,


The Quay,


A chara – Ronan O’Brien’s article (July 21st ) on John Redmond is timely. Redmond’s most important contribution was to political practice and culture: how we should, in dialogic and pluralistic fashion, negotiate our differences.

Redmond was “disappeared” from Irish history, not because he was a failure (for Irish history is full of celebrated failures), but because remembering him would raise uncomfortable questions about the Easter 1916 rising. Patrick Pearse’s 1915 essay “Ghosts” identifies Redmond as a traitor. As Sinn Féin’s political target in Northern Ireland was the SDLP, so the 1916 insurgents’ target was Redmond and his party.

If I were an Irish voter in spring 1916, what would each have said to me?

Redmond would ask for my vote. Pearse would tell me that he and his associates were now the new government of a new state, neither of which needed votes. He might commandeer my property, and his men would shoot me if I obstructed them (as happened during the rising).

Redmond might tell me about his difficulties with unionists, and sound me out on how far he could go in accommodating Carson. Refusing even to mention unionists, Pearse would present the non-negotiable demands of Cuchulainn’s and Tone’s ghosts.

Redmond would point to the land legislation, local government reform and the beginning of work to tackle the Dublin slum as positive achievements. Pearse would say (as he said to Denis Gwynn in 1913) that it were better that Dublin burn than that the Irish people should, as a result of such reforms, be content within the British empire.

Redmond would lament the horrors of the first World War and regret its necessity. Pearse said that it was the most glorious and sublime chapter in Europe’s history. Redmond would be all for non-violent nationalism and conciliating the British and the unionists. Pearse would assert that an Irish blood sacrifice was not just necessary but utterly desirable and spiritually elevating.

Redmond would be pleased that the Scots will soon vote on independence. Pearse (and Collins, as reflected in his letter in The Irish Times of October 26th, 1917) would hold that the Scots have no right to decide against independence, and that a majority not wanting full independence could be forced by an armed revolt into accepting it.

Given what he says in “Ghosts”, Pearse would regard the 1998 Good Friday agreement as national treason, whereas Redmond would think it a programme for peace and reconciliation between unionists and nationalists. With big majorities North and South endorsing that agreement, it seems that most of us are, after a fashion, Redmondites. – Is mise,


Ignatius House,

N Kenmore Avenue,


A chara, – Robert Leonard (July 25th) is quite right to highlight the often farcical and unbecoming exchanges seen among the readers’ comments in your online version. While the discontinuation of this facility might do the latter no harm, if it must be kept standards would surely be raised by the removal of the anonymity option for commentators. It is reasonable to assume that keyboard cowboys would be less trigger-happy if their contributions could be identified by neighbours, employers, and so on. — Is mise,





Sir, – Robert Leonard’s point (Letters, July 25th) on the “commentariat” and its contribution of “drivel” to the online version of The Irish Times is well made. One presumes that material published on the site comes under the umbrella of the Irish Times Trust and its governing princples. Is the trust satisfied that all this material meets the standard it itself has set,that “comment and opinion shall be informed and responsible”?

Personal rants under fanciful pen-names surely are neither. Yours, etc,



Belfast BT7

Sir, – Patrick Davey (July 26th) says “Surely this situation is worth discussing in its own right ( ie the effects of social media and the internet on young minds) rather than treating anything that Breda O’Brien writes as apologetics for the Catholic church and attacking her accordingly without actually engaging with what she is saying”.

But of course Mr Davey is right. But instead of going over old ground let us look at what Breda O’Brien wrote last Saturday (July 26th) and see if we can clear it of a Catholic “apologetics” dimension.

In this article Breda strongly attacks the content of Tony Blair’s Philip Gould lecture that week. Tony Blair had said: “No political philosophy today will achieve support unless it focuses on individual empowerment, not collective control. The role of society or the state becomes about helping the individual to help themselves, and to gain control over their own lives and choices.”

Breda replies with: “Notice what is missing – communities, co-operatives, families.” But the only family Breda O’Brien acknowledges is the family where the two people marrying are of the opposite sex. Not surprisingly this happens to be the Catholic model also.

Tony Blair, a Catholic himself, but not of the Iona Institute brand, has long been a supporter of marriage equality and vehemently challenged Pope Benedict XVl on this subject a few years ago. Breda would have been aware of this challenge.

It is precisely to give minority “communities” (like the gay community) a voice, and minority “families” (like same-sex couple families) a right to exist, that Tony Blair resists “collective control” in favour of “individual empowerment”.

Breda O’Brien, like the Catholic church she strongly supports, will brook no such “individual empowerment”.

For centuries the Catholic church has maintained strict collective control over the institution of marriage, health and education, on this island. Now the Irish people are beginning to free themselves of such collective control and the individual is finally being empowered. This is thanks to people like Tony Blair, Barack Obama and our own Eamon Gilmore.

Can we clear Breda O’Brien’s latest column of Catholic “apologetics”? I will let Patrick Davey decide for himself. Yours, etc,


Whitechurch Road,


Dublin 14

Sir – There may be countries where Conor Gearty’s optimism (Opinion & Analysis, July 25th) about the capacity of the judiciary to curb abuses of power is justified, but Ireland is not one of them.

From the illegal tapping of journalists’ phones (1983), to widespread fraud in the beef industry (1991), poisoning people with contaminated blood (1994), abuse of planning laws (1997), evading tax through illegal offshore accounts (2002), misappropriating Fás funds (2008) and bankrupting the entire country to the tune of billions (2008), the rich and powerful here have demonstrated an uncanny immunity from prosecution. Meanwhile, about 250 people a year are imprisoned for non-payment of TV licences. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Yours, etc,



Dublin 6

Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 01:35

First published: Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 01:35

Sir, – Your correspondent Éilís ní Anluain-Quill, (July 19th) shares with us the view of the late lamented Diarmaid Ó Muirithe regarding the “dodgy Gaelicisation of ‘crack’ … as ‘craic’”. There is another possible derivation. Catherine Marie O’Sullivan, in her excellent treatise Hospitality in Medieval Ireland, reminds us of the custom of cattle raiding, the proceeds of which were known as “creach”, pronounced of course “craic” with the final “c” aspirated. After a successful raid, the “creach” was distributed at a banquet, “lavish in sharing creach” . Sounds like a good party, and closer to current practice than “a good old English/Scottish word”! Apparently penalties were imposed at such “creach” for vomiting at table. Temple Bar please note. Yours, etc,


Cúil Ghlas,


Co Meath

Sir, – Whether or not physical examination is a “relationship-building tool, helping to reconnect patients and doctors”, as Muiris Houston believes, I learned in Dublin in the 1960s that it should always be carried out because a) it gives you time to think and b) you discover what you missed the last time. – Yours, etc,


Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Donegal

A chara, – Is there anything to be said for the rampant buddleia to be seen in recent weeks, sprouting from windowsills, carparks, scrubland and even chimney stacks? The species becomes more brazen by the year. And yet, no steps are taken to rein it in. It is on a par with the seagulls. Is mise,


McKee Park,

Dublin 7

Sir, – For the benefit of Rory O’Callaghan (Letters, July 28th), who sought an explanation for the playing of Ireland’s Call at a recent hockey match: from the Irish Hockey Association website: “The Irish Hockey Association is the national governing body for the sport of field hockey in Ireland. Governing the 32 counties of Ireland.”

Knowing nothing about hockey, I took the 30 seconds to investigate, rather than be outraged. The merit of the selection is obvious, the merit of the tune, less so. Yours, etc,



Dublin 24

Sir, – A tenet of decent journalism should be that a headline must not deliberately mislead. The headline “Consultants to be offered 24% pay rise” sadly falls well short of that ideal.

Sensationalist headlines with total disregard for the truth were once the preserve of the tabloid red tops. Now, in an attempt to sell copy, this paper has resorted to a tactic which is grossly unfair to the new Minister and hospital consultants. The editor is aware that the pay rise mentioned in the article refers to the reversal of a pay cut imposed on newly appointed consultants made in an effort to halt the fall in applications for new posts. The editor is also well aware that existing consultants have undergone a pay reduction of over 30 per cent since 2008.

Bashing hospital consultants has for some time now represented the low-lying fruit of lazy journalism, but this headline marks a new low in broadsheet headline-grabbing. Your, etc,


North Circular Road,


Sir, – You report (July 26th) that Prince Edward, duke of Kent, is to accompany President Michael D Higgins in unveiling a war memorial in Glasnevin Cemetery to commemorate the Irish who died fighting in the first World War. Am I the only person who is sick of this continuous sycophantic kowtowing to British royalty in relation to a dynastic war between inbred aristocratic cousins? The Great War, ironically misnamed, is best summed up by the following words of the poet Ezra Pound: “There died a myriad,/ And of the best, among them/ For an old bitch gone in the teeth / For a botched civilization.” – Yours, etc,


Harcourt Terrace,

Dublin 2

Sir, – I must protest at the publication in your newspaper of a photograph of a young rabbit trying to defend itself against a herring gull on Skellig Michael, (July 26th). The poor rabbit is clearly terrified. We all know that this is the way nature works and we accept it. But to print this picture in a daily newspaper is totally unacceptable as it breaks the hearts of little Irish children the length and breadth of the island. – Yours, etc,



Co Monaghan

Irish Independent:

I visited the West Bank in 1961. It was part of Jordan and the Palestinians were devastated at having been driven off their land. They believed that situation temporary. Between 1961 and 2014 the situation has gotten worse.

Today Israel is the super-power of the Middle East, and while enjoying the unqualified support of the US with the sympathy and commitment of the EU, it lives in fear. The whole area is very tightly controlled so the Palestinians are living in an open-air prison while the Israelis are ruling by terror.

It would take great trust and co-operation for the “Two State Solution” to work. The irony is that if the Palestinians and Israelis could achieve that, the 1948 partition of Palestine is unnecessary.

That brings us to a “One State Solution” with Jews and Arabs of the three areas living together like any normal multicultural country. Why not hope?



* No need for us to go to the cinema these days in order to see war films. Before our own eyes we are seeing the mass slaughter of innocent people, especially children, who must be asking the question: what did we do wrong to deserve this?

So far in Gaza over 1,000 people have been killed in an illegitimate war by Israeli forces. They say the essence of this conflict stems from the kidnap and murder of three Israeli boys. While I completely sympathise with their loss, is it just to kill in response?

It is not so long ago since world leaders buried their heads in the sand when they knew what was going on in concentration camps around the world. Now we have a concentration camp named Gaza that is under siege and all the world’s politicians do is give the usual lip service and rhetoric.

There can be no justification on either side for war in this conflict and the only way forward is respect and dignity for your fellow human beings.

There is a disproportionate level of violence coming from Israeli forces – and Ireland knows what it was like to live under the tyranny of an oppressor.

It is therefore incumbent on every decent human being to voice their revulsion at the violence that is being inflicted on the helpless people of Gaza. We have seen this injustice happen in South Africa and to the credit of Irish people we boycotted their produce. At least that gesture showed our compassion for the suffering of the oppressed. Let’s do the same against Israel.



* I refer to the interpretation of data by Professor John FitzGerald of the ESRI, who claims that wealth inequa-lity has narrowed during the recess-ion because the Government “protec- ted” welfare (Irish Independent, July 28). It is obvious that he didn’t ask anyone stuck with no work or those surviving on the state pension.

Recent studies demonstrate that the rich have gotten richer, and while it is obvious that the number of high earners has dropped during the recession, it is incorrect to conclude from that that we have become more equal.

On the contrary, the recently published “Rich List” showed that the fortunes of Ireland’s 250 wealthiest people rose 12pc to €57bn over the past year. Their combined wealth is now equivalent to 35pc of the country’s gross domestic product.

Anyone suggesting that the gap between the rich and the poor here has narrowed is deluding himself.



* If there was such a thing in history as a charge of “criminal misjudgment” then surely John Redmond would be a prime suspect.

Redmond stands indicted for the central role he played in sending tens of thousands of innocent young Irishmen into a useless and violent imperial war. This was done, it would seem, on foot of a vague promise of home rule – what Roger Casement reputedly called “a promissory note payable only after death”.

By contrast, Redmond’s great predecessor, Charles Stewart Parnell, had years before shown that he recognised and, more importantly, was prepared to yield to and support the growing separatist and anti-imperial movement if such were the will of the Irish people.

The real “war to end all wars” was about to unfold in Redmond’s own land: the 1916-21 Irish War of Independence. For most of the island, the outcome of this infinitely less violent event ended the British Empire’s practice of recruiting young, mainly impoverished, Irishmen as fodder for its endless colonial wars. (Recent research by eminent historian Orlando Figes, reveals that in my native parish of Aghada, in Co Cork, as many as one in every three men lost their lives in the all-but-forgotten Crimean War. In fact, post-Famine Irish recruits made up a full one-third of the entire British army engaged in that particular disaster). By contrast, and since independence, Irish soldiers have carved out an enviable reputation as a universally respected UN peacekeeping force.

Whatever the intention behind the newly-issued ‘WW1 Commemoration’ postage stamps, I think most will agree that the choice of images and text merely serves to underline the manipulative nature and bad judgment of Redmond’s pro-war lobby.

In contrast to Redmond and others, the Irish Labour and Trade Union Congress published the following address to the women of Ireland on the eve of the war: “A war for the aggrandisement of the capitalist class has been declared . . . it is you who will suffer most by this foreign war. It is the sons you reared that will be sent to be mangled by shot and torn by shell, it is your fathers, husbands and brothers, whose corpses will pave the way to glory for an Empire, which despises you.”



* Congratulations to Mary Kenny for her sensible article on Ireland’s absence from the Commonwealth Games (July 28). She somewhat underestimates the number of republics in today’s Commonwealth, however, stating “the Commonwealth contains several republics”. In fact, it contains 32 republics!

It might also be worth mentioning that Irish people willingly played a major role in building many Commonwealth countries where 17 million people of Irish descent currently live.

Today’s Commonwealth extends a hand of friendship to Ireland and some of its members give jobs and new opportunities to our youth.



* The journalist, editor and politician CP Scott once said that: “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.” While commentary is an integral and important part of any newspaper, that commentary should always be based on fact.

Unfortunately, Liam Fay’s ‘Shadow of a Conman’ commentary was not based on fact. To put the facts straight, Leinster House administrators have not employed private debt collectors to chase down outstanding money. The simple fact is that the Houses of the Oireachtas is assigning somebody to manage customer accounts in light of the fact that the person who is currently carrying out this duty is retiring.

We are taking this opportunity to review the roles and responsibilities of staff working on administration in the restaurant in light of the retirement and it is hoped that this task can be carried out by staff from within our own resources.


Irish Independent

Inspector Banks

July 28, 2014

27 July 2014 Banks

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A very very dry day

Scrabble I wins, by three pointd but gets under 400. perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.


Peter Whelan – obituary

Peter Whelan was a dramatist who examined the melancholy life of Shakespeare’s daughter in his hit play ‘The Herbal Bed’

Peter Whelan in 1997

Peter Whelan in 1997 Photo: JONATHAN EELES

6:01PM BST 27 Jul 2014


Peter Whelan, who has died aged 82, was a dramatist who always ploughed his own furrow; indifferent to fashion, he wrote solidly-crafted, thoughtful plays, usually set in the past, of the sort that stimulate reflection and live in the memory.

His best known work, The Herbal Bed (1996), was a beautiful, moving play about the unhappy marriage of Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna. The idea came to Whelan when, while working at Stratford, he wandered into Hall’s Croft, the home of John Hall, her Puritan doctor husband. Susanna was publicly accused by a neighbour of adultery with a local haberdasher and having “the runynge of the reynes” (gonorrhoea); and she brought a charge of defamation against her slanderer in the diocesan court at Worcester.

Peter Whelan in 1997 (JONATHAN EELES)

From these spare facts Whelan created a marvellously rich play that was part study of a marital crisis, part courtroom drama and part fascinating evocation of Shakespeare himself.

At a time when public attention in the run-up to the 1997 general election was focusing on the sexual peccadilloes of Tory politicians, the play’s focus on the conflict between public and private morality had contemporary resonance. Yet Whelan, a “dyed in the wool socialist” and republican, never put his own beliefs before his characters. He himself described the play as a work which came close to “what being human is about — the survival of our relationships and the lies that honest people tell”.

Starring Joseph Fiennes, Teresa Banham and David Tennant, The Herbal Bed played to sell-out audiences at The Other Place, Stratford, before transferring to the Barbican Pit. It won Whelan the Lloyds Bank Playwright of the Year award and transferred on again to the Duchess Theatre, where it enjoyed a six-month run, helping to nail the myth that only big names can succeed in the West End.

Yet, apart from a thriller which he co-authored in the 1970s, it was the only one of Whelan’s plays to make the transition. While he continued to be revered by the theatre-going cognoscenti, notching up a total of seven plays for the RSC, for most of his career as a writer he was forced, out of financial necessity, to hold down a job in advertising.

With typically wry humour, Whelan described himself as “the Jeffrey Archer of the subsidised theatre”.

The son of a lithographic artist, Peter Whelan was born at Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, on October 3 1931 and brought up at Bucknall, Stoke-on-Trent.

After education at Hanley High School, National Service in the Army in post-war Berlin and Keele University, where he read English and Philosophy, he took a series of short-lived jobs before beginning a career as an advertising copywriter.

Whelan had wanted to write plays since the age of 15, and was always conscious that advertising was not what he wanted to be doing (though he was pleased with his campaign for a Northern beer: “Wherever you may wander, there’s no taste like Stones”). He had to continue with his job to support his wife and family, finally retiring only in his 60s.

Whelan started writing plays seriously in his forties with his friend and advertising colleague Leslie Darbon. Their Double Edge, a political thriller, played at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1978 with Margaret Lockwood in the lead.

However, Whelan found his own voice only when his first solo historical play, Captain Swing, was produced at The Other Place by the RSC in 1978. Starring Zoe Wanamaker and Alan Rickman, and set during the agrarian unrest of the early 19th century, the play took its name from the pseudonymous author of poison pen letters sent to the gentry as farm labourers rioted against the introduction of new threshing machines. It was a huge critical success, transferring to the RSC’s then London base, the Warehouse in Covent Garden.

Whelan followed up with another hit, The Accrington Pals (RSC, 1981), a searingly moving exploration of the human relationships surrounding a battalion of volunteers from the Lancashire town, most of whom were killed in a single day during the Battle of the Somme.

Whelan’s retirement from advertising in the 1990s freed him to become a full-time writer. The Bright and Bold Design (RSC, 1991), loosely inspired by the life of the ceramic artist Clarice Cliff, drew on his roots in the Staffordshire Potteries. The School of Night (RSC, 1992) was an intellectual thriller focusing on the murder of Christopher Marlowe, whose atheism and alleged homosexuality draws the attention of the Elizabethan secret police.

Peter Whelan being awarded Playwright of the Year in 1997 with Sir Richard Attenborough (RICHARD YOUNG/REX)

Divine Right (Birmingham Rep, 1996) was an ambitious piece of futuristic drama which imagined the arrival of republicanism in Britain, following the Prince of Wales’s renunciation of the throne in favour of his eldest son. Though the play was predictably denounced by a couple of Tory MPs, it revealed Whelan’s gift for tenderness towards his characters. His portrayal of a troubled young Prince, like Henry V disguising himself and setting off on a tour of England, was done with human sympathy, and Whelan was subsequently surprised to be invited to spend a weekend at Sandringham, hosted by Prince Charles.

Sadly, Whelan’s final production, The Earthly Paradise (Almeida Theatre, 2004) which explored the triangular relationship between Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, and Morris’s wife, Jane Burden, was something of a disappointment to his admirers, The Daily Telegraph’s critic Charles Spencer describing it as little more than a “dutiful biographical trudge”.

Whelan also did occasional work for television, writing the script for The Trial of Lord Lucan, a documentary drama about the fugitive peer, shown on ITV in 1994.

In 1958 Peter Whelan married Frangcon Price, who survives him with their daughter and two sons.

Peter Whelan, born October 3 1931, died July 3 2014


You rightly point out that it has taken a new generation to advance the campaign against female genital mutilation (Report, 26 July). In the vanguard of the pioneers of that movement is Louise Panton, who was a young producer during my editorship of Forty Minutes (1981-85). Her 1983 film, based in Khartoum, Sudan, was called Female Circumcision and was transmitted on BBC 2 on 3 March 1983. Up to that point the subject had been buried in embarrassed silence. Not least in the BBC, which came near to dropping it on the day of transmission on grounds of delicacy. We were told that portrayal of female genitalia on BBC TV was banned. Louise objected strongly and the film was only saved at the eleventh hour by a piece of case-law plucked from the sky by head of programmes Brian Wenham. Realising female genitalia had to be shown because that was what the programme was about, he devised a compromise. The portrayal of female genitalia could be shown, but only if it was in “an educational context”. On the day of transmission the film was returned to the film editor. As FGM was about to be shown, the film froze to a still- frame and a hastily drawn diagram of the mutilated area was inserted. This was as close to the reality of FGM as was then permitted. The moving film picture later resumed.

However, the film ended with moving pictures of two small girls who were to undergo FGM. Their agonised screams, recorded as the procedure was carried out were overlaid as the film came to a close, and the end credits rolled. This disturbing sequence horrifies and haunts those who saw and heard it to this day. An early day motion was passed in parliament the day after transmission. A direct result was the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act, which came into effect in July 1985, and was later revised in 2003 as the Female Genital Mutilation Act. This programme has never been repeated. In 1991 Louise Panton made another film for Forty Minutes about young teenagers in Britain speaking out to try and prevent their younger sisters being cut. The teenagers had to speak out anonymously; today they can openly campaign. Progress has been slow but palpable, at least.
Roger Mills

Ed Milliband, as Polly Toynbee says (25 July), is making it clear he’s about principle and not posturing and this is what we desperately need. He does not have a soundbite for every occasion, but his speeches are well researched and he communicates them well. Reading Polly’s list of his policies is encouraging, but it does not include returning the NHS to true public ownership which I think would come top of the  list for most citizens in the UK and would be a real vote winner.
Rachel Rogers
Garstang, Lancashire

• Ed Miliband has a face which would fit comfortably in any Jewish home in the UK. Could all the fuss be a question of institutional anti-semitism?
Harry Landis

• Another hot day and yet another picture of people punting in Cambridge (25 July). My wife and I are keeping a tally. We love Cambridge (we met there), but this is getting silly. There are other places where your photographers might get good pictures of people enjoying themselves in the sun even, perish the thought, somewhere up north. How about trying City Park, Bradford, Millennium Square, Leeds, or the Stray in Harrogate next time you’re illustrating a “phew, what a scorcher“ story?
Colin Philpott
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

• So the Guardian is advertising (24 July) five conversations with eminent writers, and being a champion of a wider Britain, they are being held in London, London, London, London and London. How about something for your readers in Perth and Derry, Aberystwyth, Preston and even Worcester?
Robert Carr
Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire

As members of the National Council of Imams and Rabbis we are extremely concerned at the escalation and continuation of hostilities between Israel and Gaza. We are deeply saddened by the violence, hatred, suffering and loss of life. We acknowledge the grief and pain they cause. We call on wise leadership to strive for a ceasefire and a return to the negotiating table to work towards a sustained peace and two-state solution.

With regard to our shared responsibilities here in Britain, it is particularly important that we do not allow what happens elsewhere in the world to affect the cooperation and understanding we have built up between the Muslim and Jewish communities in this country. We seek to replace fear and prejudice with knowledge and understanding and in this way work together for a more peaceful world. May it be God’s will that peace prevail.
Qari Muhammad Asim imam, Makkah mosque, Leeds, Dayan Ivan Binstock rabbi, St John’s Wood United synagogue, London, Sheikh Muhammad Ismail imam, Birmingham Central mosque, Jonathan Wittenberg rabbi, New North London Masorti synagogue, Colin Eimer rabbi, Sha’arei Tsedek North London Reform synagogue, Imam Asim Hafiz Islamic adviser to the chief of the defence staff, Abdullah Hasan imam, Masjid Khadijah and Islamic Centre, Peterborough, Dr Margaret Jacobi rabbi, Birmingham Progressive synagogue, Sheikh Ezzat Khalifa imam, London Central mosque, Jason Kleiman rabbi, Bet Hamidrash Hagadol synagogue, Leeds, David Lister rabbi, Edgware United synagogue, London, Ian Morris rabbi, Sinai synagogue, Leeds, Mokhtar Osman imam, York Way mosque, London, Shahid Raza imam, Central mosque, Leicester, Danny Rich chief executive of Liberal Judaism UK, Mohammad Shafiq imam, Darul Ummah Jamme mosque, London, Reuven Silverman rabbi, Manchester Reform synagogue, Daniel Smith rabbi, Edgware Reform synagogue, London, Alexandra Wright rabbi, Liberal Jewish Synagogue, London, Mufti AK Barkatullah Islamic Sharia Council, Leyton

• I am not sure if outrage outweighs grief at witnessing the escalating human destruction in Gaza (Israeli strike kills 15 at UN school used as refuge, 25 July). When did slaughtering civilians you illegally occupy and daily humiliate become the new “self defence”? Would a British government be so crazed as to illegally occupy its next-door neighbour for 50 years, deny its history, steal its resources, move settlers into choice locations while caging the ousted “natives” within remaining sealed remnants, then bomb them for firing (relative to Israel’s awesome arsenal) garden-shed rockets?

Violence by either party cannot be condoned. There are no “sides”: we mourn each victim. But every law of human decency, war and international law is being broken in the killing of civilians in Gaza. A Palestinian boy wrote on Facebook, “We have nothing left to lose. Now I would rather die with my family under the rubble of our house than have a humiliating truce. No justice, no peace.” Those who maintain a strangling siege reap reprisal. Those who turned Gaza into an overcrowded, impoverished internment camp should not be surprised that they tunnel underneath the earth, just as imprisoned Jewish people and British soldiers did during the war. What right have those who have, for 47 years, indiscriminately crossed the green line, expropriating land and constantly harming civilians in raids, shootings and settlements, to raise their hands and speak of Palestinian terrorism? The occupation has turned Israel into a colonial power and colonialism brutalises not only the occupied but the occupier as well. What is happening is a tragedy for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

London and Washington give almost iron-clad support for Israel and US vetoes at the UN shield Israel from prosecution for war crimes and the occupation. Public anger is steadily growing at the impotence of political and judicial systems, locally and globally, to enforce justice, equality and human rights. Unless Israel is called to account, we fail the helpless civilians of Gaza and encourage all those with a militaristic mindset that they can perpetuate a violent modus operandi.
Catherine Thick
Equity & Peace

• In your editorial (26 July) you state that “unless the deeper causes of the problem which is Gaza are addressed by Israel, the US and the international community, a ceasefire will mean very little”. You obviously absolve Hamas from any need to address this problem. But the Hamas charter shows that much of this dire situation flows from its ideology. It states that peace initiatives are all contrary to its beliefs. Israel may well need to rethink its policies but there can be no peace without a drastic change in Hamas’s objectives.
Paul Miller

• “Before the current round of violence, the West Bank had been relatively quiet for years,” writes Jonathan Freedland (Israel’s fears are real, but this war is utterly self-defeating, 26 July). According to B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights centre, 90 West Bank Palestinians were killed, 16 of them children, by the IDF or by settlers between January 2009 and May 2014. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there have been 2,100 settler attacks since 2006, involving beatings, shootings, vandalising schools, homes, mosques, churches and destroying olive groves. According to Amnesty International, between January 2011 and December 2013, Israeli violence resulted in injuries to 1,500 Palestinian children. “Relatively quiet” for whom?.
Leon Rosselson
Wembley, Middlesex

• Jonathan Freedland expresses the emotional impasse. The “but” lies in the argument, used last week by David Cameron: “What would we in Britain do if we were subject to rocket fire from across our border?” It looks convincing as grounds for Israel’s actions. But what would we in Britain do if a large chunk of our land – proportionate to the West Bank – had been taken by a foreign power, built upon and our people repressed? The question answers itself and provides the way forward.

As the US seems to be the only actor with clout, an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank under American and UN supervision and with US guarantees to Israel to defend her borders should be security enough. Only the US could do it. Without this radical solution it’s hard to see how Israelis will ever sleep peacefully in their beds or Palestinians begin to recover from the deep hatred they must feel for Israel’s land-snatch. I cannot know the answer in Gaza, but settling the West Bank problem must be the start.
Richard Payne

• Your editorial seeking to identify the roots of violence in Gaza claimed that the “chain of causation” leads to Ariel Sharon. It comes as no surprise that your interpretation of history has a wicked, devious Israeli deceive a nation of simple honest Palestinians, who wanted nothing better than to live in peace with their neighbours.

You say that “Israel left Gaza institutionalised”. But the first acts of the leaders of that “institutionalised state” were to destroy the houses of the settlers at a time of desperate housing shortage and tear down the market garden economy left by the settlers. They preferred to have their people living on aid, rather than be economically independent. The roots of violence in Gaza are to be found in the fantasy that Israel must be and will be destroyed. The chain of causation leads directly to Riyadh, Tehran, Doha and the other Islamic states that feed this fantasy and thereby mislead the Palestinians.
Gunter Lawson

• Thank you for your highly informative editorial on Gaza. However, you conclude that Gaza is an intractable problem. If western governments put as much pressure on Israel to come to a just settlement with the Palestinians as they are putting on Vladimir Putin on Ukraine, it may not be intractable.
John Haworth
Blackburn, Lancashire

• Jonathan Freedland’s perceptive article suggests that the current war between Israel and Gaza is self-defeating. He observes that “it was the discovery of the tunnels that prompted the ground offensive”. On the same day your correspondents note that the Hamas leader “has insisted on an end to the siege of Gaza… The gap between the two sides is wide.” One way to bridge this gap would be to station UN observers on the border inside Gaza with the equipment to monitor underground tunnels and rockets, and at the border crossings to ensure the siege is ended.

The UN could then organise fresh elections in Gaza and the West Bank to mandate representatives for peace talks to ensure that the cycle of violence does not resume. Renewable energy technologies offer a new dynamic for the negotiations. Fundamentally the conflict is about who owns the land. The UN could own solar panels and wind turbines that would harness the wind, sunlight and atmospheric water above the disputed areas and in Gaza. They could ensure the electricity and water would be for the economic benefit of both Israel and Palestine.
Emeritus Professor Keith Barnham


As a respected commentator, Mary Dejevsky is always welcome at the Institute for Government, not as she describes us (18 July) the “Institution of Government”. The distinction is important, since we are an independent organisation trying to improve how the country is governed.

We know that the Civil Service can be very inward-looking. That is partly why the Institute exists – to bring fresh thinking into Whitehall. It would be wrong to draw the conclusion that our events don’t help build bridges between those on the outside of government and those on the inside. We hosted Iain Rennie, the State Service Commissioner of New Zealand, precisely because he can provide some of that fresh thinking. We have a broad range of event series that bring outsiders in to challenge how government works, such as our women leaders and big thinkers series.

We are very concerned with the impact of public services on the people who use them. Our new report on policy implementation showed why politicians and civil servants need to focus on how policies are to be delivered. We will continue to challenge leaders in politics and the Civil Service to look outwards to improve their internal processes.

Peter Riddell, Director, Institute for Government, London SW1

Great hotel in the great war

I was delighted to read the article about the newly refurbished Majestic Hotel in Paris (26 July), since I have recently been looking into the history of this building myself.

My husband is the keeper of First World War medals awarded to his great uncle, Thomas Ashby. While trying to find out more about the history of this gentleman, I discovered a document signed by the mayor of the 16th arrondissement. The mayor records the death of Thomas Ashby of the King’s Royal Rifles on 25 September 1914, giving the place of his death as 19 Avenue Kléber.

Your article mentions the use of the hotel at 19 Avenue Kléber by the British delegation who negotiated the Versailles Treaty in 1919, but I wonder if there is any record of this building being used by the British Army for casualties during the first few weeks of the war? If this was the case this hotel may be of interest to others in this year of the 100th anniversary of the war.

Gail Chandler, Kirklevington, North Yorkshire

Gaza atrocities traduce Judaism

Well said Mira Bar-Hillel for having the courage to challenge Jewish leadership and communities for their shameful silence on the Gaza atrocities (26 July). One of the most disturbing aspects of the current offensive is the way that belligerent Zionism has traduced Judaism in the eyes of the world.

The essence of this great prophetic religion, with its belief in a benign ethical monotheism and demand for universal justice, was summed up by the greatest of the teachers of Israel, Rabbi Hillel, in the words “Do to others as you would have them do to you” – a far cry from the earlier savagery of “an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth”.

Even the founding fathers of Israel, such as Martin Buber, envisaged a different sort of state, characterised by peace and co-operation. How this ideal has been betrayed by the new fundamentalist zealots! After the Six Day War Rabbi Blue rather sadly opined to me: “The Jews always wanted  to be a nation like other nations; now they have shown they are!”

As we now watch artillery being fired into civilian areas, we see a nation acting worse than other nations.

Dominic Kirkham, Manchester

Mira Bar-Hillel  informs us that she will “not go Israel again while this regime is in place”. The word regime being defined as “method of government” and Israel being a democracy, one hopes that she may be imposing a lifetime ban. Perhaps she prefers the regimes like those in Iraq, Iran or even Syria (200,000  mostly civilian, deaths there in the last two years). But perhaps, on reflection, they too must face up to life without a visit from her.

David Isenberg, London N12

Christopher Sterling highlights the Gaza “kill ratio” as “hundreds to one” and therefore not finely balanced (letter, 26 July).

Of course Israel could have altered this ratio by simply opting not to shoot down some of the thousands of rockets being fired into Israeli communities. Alternatively, Hamas could have altered the ratio by building bomb shelters for Palestinians, by not firing missiles from civilian areas, or by not attacking Israeli towns in the first place.

To end the blockade put in place to prevent – or at least limit – all this would be to invite yet more of the same from Hamas. This is a terrorist organisation committed to the abolition of the Middle East’s only Jewish state – an ambition they share with many of the undemocratic nations that routinely vote against Israel at the UN.

Keith Gilmour, Glasgow

Does anyone with a modicum of knowledge on Palestine believe Hamas can destroy mighty Israel? Hamas’s rockets largely fall on waste ground or are destroyed mid-air. Yet Israel does not waste a moment to remind the world that Hamas are hell-bent on Israel’s destruction.

Mustafa Haqqani, Lymm, Cheshire

On the day before Professor John Newsinger’s letter (26 July) was published, deploring Ed Miliband’s failure to speak out on the crisis in Gaza, Mr Miliband made a speech which opened with a very clear statement of his views.

This part of his speech has not been widely reported, because the media concentrated on his remarks about not being from central casting, but the text can be read on Labour’s website. Professor Newsinger could not have known that the Labour leader was going to make this speech, but I wanted him to know that he can now congratulate him.

David Bell, Standon, Hertfordshire

Whitehall goes political

You report (25 July) that a Department of Communities and Local Government spokeswoman said: “Spending on council tax benefit doubled under Labour. Welfare reform is vital to tackle Labour’s budget deficit.” Has the Civil Service now given up entirely the principle of being non-political?

Gyles Cooper, London N10

Saltires in the sky

During this current spell of hot weather, I would be interested to know how much Alex Salmond is paying the airlines to use their vapour trails to portray the image of the Saltire in the skies over Great Britain. Surely this is giving the “Yes” campaign an unfair advantage?

Grant Serpell, Maidenhead, Berkshire

No thanks to Cameron and his Big Society

“If it wasn’t for the churches in this city, homeless people would be dead on the streets from cold and hunger.” I quote 53-year-old Albert, a chronic alcoholic and street drinker.

I have clocked up 28 hours’ voluntary work this week. I’m 65 and should be sitting knitting, but I can’t because of David Cameron. I came home this morning after two hours of hot, exhausting work on our allotments, where my group grows food to cook one night a week to feed up to 100 people.

We work in partnership with other churches in our city to try to provide a free meal somewhere each day, and last winter we managed to raise enough funds to keep a night shelter open from March to September, providing a bed, warmth, a meal and breakfast.

We advocate for our guests, we work with them to gain the help they need to get out of their pits of despair. Not a penny comes from Cameron’s Big Society, and no, we didn’t do it in response to Mr Cameron’s “brilliant” idea. We’ve always done this, in some cases for decades. Don’t let Mr Cameron dare to take the credit!

Our guests are alcoholics, addicts of gambling and drugs, the mentally ill, street girls who can’t break from their pimps because of their addictions, sufferers of prolonged abuse, people evicted because of the bedroom tax. When you are gripped by these problems there is no longer anywhere to go, because Mr Cameron’s spending cuts have taken the help away, and this is so in every town across the country. This isn’t down to poor financial decision-making by councils, it’s down to David Cameron.

He and his colleagues from the Big Society should feel ashamed and disgusted  with themselves at the way public money has been squandered and not gone where it should have gone: to hard-working Brits doing what they should be funding (“Cameron’s Big Society in tatters”, 26 July). The next time those responsible meet to go through their valueless agenda, while sipping expensive mineral waters, someone should remind them that the value of the chair each is sitting on would probably fund my group for a week.

Judith Flack, Derby


Sir, Good to have a clear, incisive military mind brought to bear on the Middle-East question, as typified by Colonel Kemp (“Hamas human shields are to blame, not Israel,” July 25). Unfortunately, he is wrong.

The analogy with the V1 and Peenemünde completely neglects a vital difference. Britain had absolutely no defence against the rocket which had killed over 1,000 London citizens before its production was interdicted — yes, at the cost of civilian lives. Israel has a total defence capability against the rockets fired at them from Gaza, and plenty of time and capacity to plan for more sophisticated ones should they be supplied. Mercifully, very, very few Israeli citizens have so far been killed by these missiles.

As for the analogy with Northern Ireland, it’s a fair one but begs two simple but vital questions. Why did Israel pull out of Gaza in the first place? What it is doing is equivalent to Britain fully withdrawing from Northern Ireland in the 1970s, then every so often bombing Belfast and killing numerous civilians whenever the IRA raised its game.

And, secondly, why don’t the Israelis reoccupy the territory and fight the same sort of war we had to against the IRA?

Both Colonel Kemp and I will agree that such a course of action will save lives and reputations, and might lead to a successful peace negotiation.

Drew Clode
London N8

Sir, Colonel Kemp displays a degree of naivety when he compares the Gaza crisis with a Second World War situation. He says that Gaza is a separate state but forgets that in the war Britain and Germany both had massive armies, navies and air forces. Gaza has none. The Israelis have the missile shield, the Palestinians have none.

The restrictions on Gazans are so severe that they have nowhere to go. To claim that the 700 or so Palestinians who have been killed have all been part of a human shield is shameful. Finally, he believes that the killing of innocent civilians can be justified as in the 732 who died in the raid on Peenemünde.

Dr Fareed Ahmad
London SW18

Sir, Tens of thousands of innocent civilian women and children died in the two Gulf wars. We called it “collateral damage”. One stray bomb hit a Baghdad shelter, killing hundreds of civilians. Our soldiers who were killed or wounded were called, rightly, “heroes”.

Fast forward to the Gaza conflict: the Israeli defence force sends warnings by phone and fires dummy warning missiles — this was not done by the Allies in the Gulf wars. Israel is accused of “war crimes” for the hundreds of civilians tragically killed. Its soldiers are demonised.

Isn’t the tragic reality that civilians die in wars? So why is Israel, which at least has a tangible threat to repel, unlike the spurious threats that prompted the second Gulf War, being judged more harshly?

Lawrence Lever
London NW3

Sir, Your cartoon (Peter Brookes, July 25) supports Israel’s claims that the only reason that it has killed so many women and children in Gaza is that they are being used as human shields. Even children playing on a beach. Now a Red Crescent hospital is bombed and the Israelis claim Hamas did it. I despair . . . .

Susan Cahill
Bracknell, Berks

Sir, I disagree with Philip Collins about purpose and importance of the Commonwealth (Opinion, July 25).

Of course it is right to encourage countries to improve their human rights records (and in extreme cases to remove their membership), but the point of the Commonwealth is that it is a body of nations which share a common language and historical link rather than being an organisation with a political programme.

Nor is sport, however enjoyable, the end of the story. Collins concedes that it is much easier and cheaper to do business in the Commonwealth, but that is only one of the many useful links between Commonwealth countries.

Other areas include educational and technical development and parliamentary liaison (something I have been involved in in Africa and elsewhere) in which the more developed countries like Canada and India, as well as Britain, play a significant role. In the present climate of international turmoil we need all the useful networks that exist. The Commonwealth remains an important forum of that type.

Sir Malcolm Jack
London N19

Sir, Philip Collins is right to say that the Commonwealth is at a turning point but wrong to suggest that this unique association of 53 nations is only about governments.

What matters more than anything else is the contact between people, professional bodies and the private sector which has emerged in this post-imperial age based on a common history and language.

In the modern digital age the prospect of a kaleidoscope of links can develop dramatically through businesses, schools, universities, medical groups, environmentalists, sports, arts and so on.

The members represent over a quarter of the globe with a cross-section of big and small countries, rich and poor, consisting of all faiths and ethnic groups across the world.

The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, with the accompanying arts and music events, is about contact and better understanding between all the different countries and peoples of the Commonwealth.

In a world full of conflict and bloodshed, surely it is better to try to bridge differences in understanding through talking rather than fighting? As Churchill said, “Jaw jaw is better than war war.”

Britain can only benefit if, as an equal partner in the Commonwealth, governments and people find ways to resolve our differences through contact and dialogue.

Lord Luce
House of Lords

Sir, The Department of Energy & Climate Change’s report Life cycle impacts of biomass electricity in 2020 provoked some wry smiles (Biomass power plants ‘less green’, July 25). Its findings were neatly summarised on the Today programme: “Taxpayers may have been subsidising power stations to burn wood in a way that creates more carbon emissions than burning coal.”

In 2010 the Wood Panel Industries Federation submitted a report to DECC which, in essence, made this same point. We have long argued that support for the expansion of the wood basket and promotion of wood products which extend the life of carbon already sequestered by the growing tree would give a substantially better carbon return than sending harvested wood that is suitable for product manufacture, directly to the incinerator.

Only at the end of its useful economic and biological life should wood be burned for power generation. We hope that the new energy minister will take heed as he gets to know his brief.

Alastair Kerr
Wood Panel Industries Federation
Grantham, Lincs


SIR – As the world recoils from the horrific murder of everyone on board Flight MH17, the majority of people would like to see the most extreme sanctions possible imposed on Russia.

Perhaps there should be restrictions on the movement of Russians within the EU. Could they also be prevented from buying property?

I know this would penalise innocent people as well as the guilty; but 298 have already paid the ultimate price.

Norah Brown
Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary, Ireland

SIR – Some people in Ukraine have not been getting the press they deserve. I refer to those searching for, gathering and bagging the human remains of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from the wreckage area.

Of course the crash site has been contaminated. This is a country being torn apart by civil war. Even in a sophisticated country in peacetime, an air disaster on this scale would pose a huge logistical problem.

It being the height of summer, the remains needed to be found, sorted and bagged quickly. I cannot think of a more daunting, repugnant but necessary job. Some Ukrainians did help and I think that these good folk should be acknowledged.

Richard Seyd
Farnborough, Hampshire

Cabinet reshuffle

SIR – The sacking of Owen Paterson demonstrates a huge error of judgment by Downing Street.

Mr Paterson’s grasp of the situation when the Somerset Levels flooded last winter was firm and effective. His insistence on a 20-year plan for the area ensured that all the parties involved achieved a consensus of opinion on what should be done.

Part of this plan was to set up a Somerset Rivers Board. This board is to consist of farmers, conservationists, county and district councils. The aim is to build a barrage at the mouth of the river Parrett within 10 years.

Our new Secretary of State Elizabeth Truss should be given an opportunity to steer this important government department. In the meantime, the farmers, home and business owners on the Levels are counting down to next winter. Each day of inactivity brings us one step closer to disaster. Mr Paterson’s knack of keeping his own finger on the pulse of the relevant issues will be missed across the whole country.

Edwin White
Chairman, Somerset Levels Relief Fund
Easton Wells, Somerset

SIR – The deficiencies of the Cabinet reshuffle and the decline in the Conservatives’ opinion poll ratings mirror the misfortunes of England’s cricket team.

In both cases any change in leadership is met with “Who would take his place?” and “There isn’t anyone else out there”. But how do they know? You cannot tell what someone will bring to the leadership role until you give him/her the chance. And you should never keep a leader who is failing to deliver, simply because you are uncertain about the prospects of a successor.

David Saunders
Sidmouth, Devon

Wartime spirit

SIR – I’m sure many of my generation feel as I do when mental health schemes feature in the papers.

As a child growing up during the Second World War, anxiety was wondering where the next bomb would fall. Depression was the hole it made; tension was something to do with my mother’s knitting; and stress was to do with the strength of the washing line. The only “counsellors” I had heard of were local councillors.

Isn’t it amazing that we grew up to be normal?

Sheila Williams
Sunningdale, Berkshire

Tweet of the day

SIR – One evening last week my smoke alarm started tweeting.

At half-past four the next morning I teetered on a chair at the top of the stairs, opened the casing of the alarm and attempted to dig the battery out of its niche. I should have had three hands: two to deal with the battery and one to cling to the top of the chair. If this contraption must be at the top of the stairs, why must it be attached to the ceiling and not the wall of the landing?

Come dawn the thing was still tweeting. I was not happy.

Elizabeth Prince
Littlehampton, West Sussex

Last orders please

SIR – Clive Pilley thinks that bar staff need better training.

On the contrary, the greatest obstacle to better service has always been the swarm of barflies who will not move away from the counter after being served, so that others have to push their way through.

Norman Baker
Tonbridge, Kent

Round the houses

SIR – Can anyone explain the route that Andrew Marr takes to get to the television centre on a Sunday morning?

One shot shows him driving south over Westminster Bridge, but shortly after he is apparently going round Piccadilly Circus.

Diana Goetz
Salisbury, Wiltshire

Christianity under Mosul’s Islamic State

SIR – You reported that the new Islamic State in Mosul is demanding payment of a special tax (jizya) by Christians.

Harsh penalties on Christians for avoidance of this tax were traditional in Sunni Islam. In 1576, in Ottoman Turkey, tax strikes broke out in Albania and west Macedonia, so the Sultan issued a firman that disobedient Christians should have their wealth seized, their houses burned down and their wives and children taken into slavery.

The Sultan was being merciful on that occasion, for in 1583, another such order stated that “according to Sharia the disobedient are to be killed.”

Dr M R Palairet

SIR – I conducted a service at Murmansk in northern Russia recently, for surviving Royal and Merchant Navy seamen who took part in the Arctic convoys during the Second World War.

Among the memorial stones in the British Military Cemetery at Murmansk I found a poignant trio of graves: a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim lay buried side by side. Three men of different religions and nations, united in a common cause to bring relief from suffering.

Religion ought to enable us to discover who we are, where we come from and what our end will be, directing our lives to serve all who share our precious gift of life, our common humanity.

Canon Alan Hughes
Wark, Northumberland

Blair’s legacy

SIR – Tony Blair’s former political secretary John McTernan generously praised his old employer’s achievements but made little mention of the disastrous legacy he left the country.

This includes escalating crime rates, plummeting education standards, the state of the NHS and increasing national debt. Then there was the financial meltdown – apparently not foreseen by anyone in government.

Mr McTernan also credits Mr Blair with democracy in Iraq, yet five pages on in the Sunday Telegraph a report says that the central government “has lost control of vast areas of territory”.

Bill Parish
Bromley, Kent

A tight squeeze

SIR – I would be fascinated to know how John Wilson’s idea of mooring HMS Queen Elizabeth at Greenwich would be achieved.

Measuring 128ft at waterline and 230ft at its widest point, the beam is too large for the Panama Canal, so it would not fit through the Thames Barrier.

John Brandon
Tonbridge, Kent

SIR – Michael Simkins’ 1963 Italian phrase book was almost certainly more handy in its time than some of the genre.

On holiday in Greece several years ago, my mother set out with a team of friends to explore the surrounding mountain area.

Under the increasingly hot sun, one of their party began to complain of feeling unwell, and by the time they had crossed the midway point on their trek, he was virtually unconscious. While the others stayed behind to nurse him, my mother struck out in search of aid.

The rescue attempt ran into difficulty when, rummaging through her phrase book for something applicable to the present emergency, she could only find the Greek for “Please help me: I’ve gone blind”.

Fortunately the stricken party member recovered soon afterwards of his own accord.

Mary Morgan
London SW1

SIR – My father was issued with a French booklet when he served in the cavalry in the First World War. Maybe he found a use for my favourite entry: “Show us the road to X. Direct us correctly or you will be shot.”

Helen Tucker
Heslington, East Yorkshire

SIR – George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has announced that all prospective pensioners will be entitled tofree, impartial, face-to-face adviceon the choices available. Subsequent details as to who will deliver this proposal do not address the real crux of the issue, which is how it is to be delivered.

There cannot possibly be enough people with the relevant skills in the Pensions Advisory Service and Citizens Advice Bureau to give free, impartial guidance to all. The only way to deliver this advice efficiently and cost effectively is online, and not face-to-face as promised; but there is no real detail as to how this might work, or how advice can be tailored to individuals’ requirements through such a generic portal.

This is a great idea but if it is not executed well, that is all it will remain. Any failure to finalise the details quickly is a big gamble for the Government, just before the general election.

Michael Whitfield
CEO, Thomsons Online Benefits
London SW1

SIR – News of the reformed pensions scheme leaves me with a profound sense of foreboding.

Can a clause be inserted into the legislation that will prevent Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, should they get into power, doing to the scheme what Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did in the late Nineties? At the time of the latter pair’s arrival on the scene Britain’s was the best pension scheme in the world.

Andrew Martin
Rowton, Chesire

SIR – The argument of Ros Altmann, the pension expert and “business champion for older workers”, for delaying retirement seemed to be predicated on financial need rather than the Government’s belief that working until the age of 75 is a worthwhile aspiration.

Retirement is about choice based on vocational satisfaction and affordability. The former is outside the control of Government, but the latter is not. Were saving both a more attractive proposition and self-provision more strongly required, then the choice could be based on better criteria and the burden on the state reduced.

Retirement is a negative word, implying a relinquishment of an active and rewarding lifestyle. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Policies that encourage financial preparation throughout one’s working life would be far more beneficial than constantly raising the age at which a person is entitled to a state pension.

A parallel initiative requiring the Government to create a financial policy that accumulates ring-fenced pension funds rather than meeting requirement annually from revenue would also do much to reduce the burden on the state.

Charles Holden
Lymington, Hampshire

SIR – It is curious how government policy regarding the pension age is so regressive. We are told that our children will have to work until the age of 70 before being eligible for the state pension. This is the same age as when it was introduced by Lloyd George more than 100 years ago.

When I began teaching in 1973 we were told that if teachers worked until 65 their life expectancy was another 18 months, but that if they retired at 60 they could expect 12 more years to enjoy their pension.

By requiring teachers to go on until their late 60s, presumably we can look forward to exhausted staff receiving the blame for a decline in the quality of education. Then, when they do eventually get to retire, they will very likely do the decent thing and die within a short space of time. At least the Exchequer will be happy.

John de Waal
Eastbourne, East Sussex

SIR – The Treasury has described a pension pot worth £310,000 as “very large”. At the age many in the public sector retire, the annuity rate available would not put a pensioner into higher rate tax even including earnings-related top-ups such as Serps and its successor S2P.

Andrew Smith
Epping Essex

Irish Times:

Sir, – It is not enough to express horror at so many innocent lives having been lost during the latest round of violence in Gaza and Israel. We must instead ask how we can break the cycle that leads to this slaughter.

The people of Gaza live in what is often referred to as “the world’s largest open air prison”. Almost two million people live in an area 40km long and 10km wide, 80 per cent of whom are classified by the United Nations as refugees. Eight out of every 10 residents of Gaza are reliant on the international community for support.

In the West Bank, the Israeli military is in control of 60 per cent of the land. There are now more than 500,000 Israeli settlers living in over 200 settlements. In order to facilitate these settlements, land is confiscated from Palestinians. According to the UN, in 2013 alone, 1,513 Palestinians, including 731 children, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were affected by the demolition of homes and other structures.

The occupation of the West Bank has created a discriminatory regime with two populations living separately in the same territory under two different systems of law. While settlers enjoy all the rights of Israeli citizens, Palestinians are subject to military law.

Despite these flagrant breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law, the Israeli government refuses to comprehend Palestinian grievances. Prime minister Netanyahu speaks of “quiet for quiet”. We support his desire for peace and security for Israeli citizens, but we also recognise that it is neither realistic nor acceptable to plan a future based on peace for Israelis and the daily reality of blockades, military law and occupation for Palestinians.

We are witnessing the third major Israeli military offensive in Gaza in six years. The current unjust status quo has sadly led to rocket attacks into Israel and cyclical military action on Gaza. Both sides claim to be responding to the other’s aggression. Without a structural change to the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians, it is inevitable that this cycle will continue.

The Irish Government, along with its European partners, must play an active role in breaking this cycle. Until we are prepared to do more than issue empty words of condemnation, the cycle of violence will continue.

We call on the Government to affirm its commitment to a long-term political solution based on a full adherence to international human rights and humanitarian law by both Palestinians and Israelis.

In recently issued advice to Irish citizens and businesses, the Government noted: “Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible.”

Recognising this, we call on the Government to ban all trade with illegal Israeli settlements, thus reducing the economic incentive for Israel to continue to confiscate land from Palestinians in the West Bank.

Working towards a long-term political solution based on peace and justice is the only way to ensure the security of Palestinians and Israelis.

It is a fallacy to think that cyclical military invasions of Gaza will bring security to Israel. This policy will only lead to more violence and death on both sides. Yours, etc,


executive director, Trócaire,


chief executive officer,

Christian Aid Ireland,



Social Justice Ireland,


general secretary,

Irish Council of

Trade Unions,


general president, SIPTU,


School of English,

University College Cork,


School of Social Justice,

University College Dublin,


Department of English,

NUI Maynooth,


School of Applied Language

and Intercultural Studies,

Dublin City University,


School of



School of English,

Drama & Film,

University College Dublin,


International Peace Studies,

Trinity College Dublin,


International Peace

Studies Programme,

Trinity College Dublin,


Department of Sociology,

Trinity College Dublin,


deputy principal.

Ballyfermot College

of Further Education,


Department of History,

St Mary’s University College,



Department of Sociology,

University of Limerick,


School of Communications,

Dublin City University,


Faculty of Humanities

and Social Sciences,

Dublin City University


chairperson, Sadaka –

The Ireland Palestine


Sir, – If truth is the first casualty of war, the second is surely realism. B Devlin (Letters, July 26th) calls for the deployment of a UN force in Gaza charged with the elimination of rocket fire and other forms of aggression that originate there.

Leaving aside the implied apportioning of blame, a number of questions should be answered before the idea of a UN force is abandoned.

For example, would both sides accept such a force? Could the UN Security Council agree to create it? Would the entire Gaza Strip have to be occupied to enforce the mandate? How many troops would be needed? Who would pay for them? Which UN members have the military capability to provided suitably trained and equipped personnel? Which of these countries would be acceptable to the belligerents? How long would the force have to remain in place?

If this renders the idea of a UN force doubtful, we can at least be sure of two things. First, the UN is not fit for its primary purpose of maintaining world peace. And second, no Irish troops would be part of any Gaza peace-keeping force – it is much easier to volunteer other nations’ soldiers for dangerous missions. Yours, etc,


Philipsburgh Avenue,

Dublin 3

Sir, – References in your Letters pages in recent days have compared body counts in Israel and in Gaza, as if there were some league table of death that would justify certain actions. This is an odious and morally bankrupt position. The deliberate taking of human life is, and always will be, an affront to humanity. It is incumbent on all parties to make peace, not war. Partisan screaming from the secure bunker of our own country is of no help in this regard. – Yours, etc,


Lough Atalia Grove,


Sir, – Might I suggest a possible solution to the crisis in Gaza? Israel should declare that it will withdraw to its pre-1967 borders over a 15- to 20-year period in stages every two to three years, a process that will be stalled, or reversed, if any missiles or other terrorist actions are directed at it.

All concerned nations should guarantee the security of the original Israeli state. Hamas and the Palestinians, and other regional powers, should declare their acceptance of Israel as a free, independent state and commit to full support of the peace plan. The United Nations should then oversee and police the agreement until its final conclusion. – Yours, etc,


Las Dunas Park,



Sir, – If there was such a thing in history as a charge of “criminal misjudgement”, then surely John Redmond must be a prime suspect. Redmond stands indicted for the central role he played in sending tens of thousands of innocent young Irishmen into yet another useless and grotesquely violent imperial war. This was done, it would seem, on foot of a vague promise of home rule – what Roger Casement reputedly called “a promissory note payable only after death”. By contrast, Redmond’s great predecessor, Parnell, had years before shown that he recognised and, more importantly, was prepared to yield to and support the growing separatist and anti-imperial movement, the “march of a nation”, if such were the will of the Irish people.

The real “war to end all wars” was about to unfold in John Redmond’s own land: the 1916-21 Irish War of Independence. For most of the island, the outcome of this infinitely less violent event ended the empire’s practice of recruiting young, mainly impoverished, Irishmen as fodder for its endless colonial wars. (Recent research by eminent historian Orlando Figes reveals that in my native parish of Aghada in Co Cork, as many as one in every three men lost their lives in the all but forgotten Crimean War. In fact, post-Famine Irish recruits made up a full one-third of the entire British army engaged in that particular disaster.) By contrast, since independence, Irish soldiers have carved out an enviable reputation for themselves as a universally respected peacekeeping force within the UN.

Whatever the intention behind the newly-issued first World War postage stamps, I think most will agree that the choice of images and text merely serves to underline the manipulative nature and the very bad judgment of that particular pro-war lobby.

In contrast to Redmond and others, and with commendable good judgement, the Irish Labour and Trade Union Congress published the following address to the women of Ireland, on the eve of the war:“ … a war for the aggrandisement of the capitalist class has been declared … it is you who will suffer most by this foreign war. It is the sons you reared at your bosom that will be sent to be mangled by shot and torn by shell, it is your fathers, husbands and brothers, whose corpses will pave the way to glory for an Empire, which despises you.” – Yours, etc,


Ashfield Park,

Dublin 6W

A chara, – I cannot but be astounded by the anti-Irish language letter-writers featured over the last week. It seems there is a huge focus on the cost of Irish culture and very little on the value. “Billions of educational hours wasted” on Irish language education, said John O Loughlin (July 24th).

If you think education is a waste you should try ignorance: ignorance of the 200 per cent increase in gaelscoileanna in the last 20 years; ignorance of the huge demand for total immersion as gaeilge; ignorance of the fact that an Ghaeilge inherently carries with it the richness of the social and cultural heritage of our past. The detractors seem to wish to destroy this living link to the past, who we are and where we come from and break the chain the our historical lineage. Should the Book of Kells be binned? Should Newgrange be knocked?. These “curiosities”, like an Ghaeilge, produce no immediate fiscal reward and could be seen as merely a drain on the public purse; ignorance of the the fact that citizens of other nations can easily speak their own native language as well as perfect English. In Ireland monoglots abound. However in Holland, Denmark and Sweden residents have the capacity to speak their own native language. Why can’t we? Maybe those Irish who feel a deep-rooted inferiority might learn a lesson from these proud, uncolonised, unconquered nations. Is féidir linn! – Mise le meas


Garrán Stigh Lorcáin,

Contae BAC

Sir, – Having read Alex Brummer’s book Bad Banks, concerning the UK bank scandal, it occurred to me that it may be too late for the Dáil inquiry into our banking collapse.

Brummer argues that a repetition of the property price crash in Britain and elsewhere is inevitable, basically because governments have proven that they simply cannot cope with banks and because most of those who oversaw reckless lending in the past are still in place.

He goes on to say that there has been no revolution in banking practice. All of which raises the question as to whether the Dáil banking enquiry should be focused on the future. The dogs in the street know what happened in the past. Besides, a witch-hunt now would be just that, with no one likely to go to jail. At the heart of good banks, Brummer concludes, must be good people.

A revolution in selection and training of personnel, therefore, would appear to be what is now required. – Yours, etc,


Walnut Rise,

Dublin 9

Sir, – The assertion by Paddy McEvoy (Letters, July 25th) that the Irish Republic could soon be a member of the Commonwealth should prompt some thought. In the London Times of the same day Philip Collins wrote that it was time to abolish the organisation and he questioned the wisdom of having the queen, who does a very good job, chair it.

It is incontrovertible that many Commonwealth countries are strangers to its original philosophy, which was to bind nations together freely co-operating in the pursuit of peace, justice and liberty.

The human rights record of many members involves the subjugation of women, the criminalisation of homosexuality and the brutalisation of political opponents. To paraphrase Groucho Marx, do you really want to be in an organisation that would have such characters as members? Yours, etc,




Sir, – I have always felt sure that no matter how dominant women become there will still be a role for men because women and girls are afraid of spiders.

Yesterday my four-year-old granddaughter summoned me to the garden because there was a “baby spider” on her dress. I donned my cape and rushed to her rescue, thinking that she would remember my heroism as I sink into doddering incoherence, only to be ordered in her best princess voice “Don’t touch it, it’s cute.”

Finally, at 63, I am beginning to feel a niggle of the role confusion so dear to a certain element of the chattering classes. – Yours, etc,


Hawthorn Park,


Co Dublin

A chara, – I refer to your report (“Hold the back page”, Sports Weekend, July 26th) which stated that “last week at an international hockey match in Belfield the crowd was asked to stand for the Irish national anthem. People obediently stood up and Phil Coulters Ireland’s Call was played to some amusement.”

How jolly indeed. Assuming that our hockey ambassadors rely on public funding in order to pursue their hockey careers and support funding for the Belfield campus is made available out of the public purse perhaps we are owed an explanation as to the basis for the dropping of our national anthem at this event.

Who or what body made this decision and what authority do they have for this disgraceful and shameful misrepresentation on an international stage? Some people may have been amused – others, however, are not so, and at the very least, would like an explanation. – Is mise,


McDowell Avenue,

Ceannt Fort,

Sir, – JD Mangan has a problem with the Germans (Letters, July 26th). He finds fault with the fact that in contrast to Ireland they kept their economy competitive and did not bankrupt their country. In addition, they were able to be in a position to lend what he calls “surplus monies from German banks” to our banks. A problem arose for us, however, when our banks did not use it wisely. Mr Mangan forgets, however, to mention that in addition to keeping their economy competitive German taxpayers were able to contribute “surplus monies” to building Ireland’s roads etc. In an EU of nearly 30 countries with a home market of 500 million people the Germans must be doing something right. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,

Dublin 13

Sir, – Two extraordinary contrasts in The Irish Times (July 26th). Breda O’ Brien brilliantly captured the sad reality of contemporary politics while on the previous page Stephen Collins remained caught in the politics of yesteryear. Who would have thought it? I admit, not I. – Yours, etc,


Beech Hill Drive,

Dublin 4

Irish Independent:

After the weekend that wasn’t I just felt that I had to write on what has happened in this country with Garth Brooks.

A country on its knees crying out for work, our young people leaving by the day, an opportunity for over €50m, not to mention the extra work for workers who cannot find full-time employment, I just cannot understand how we can shut down the city for days on end and restrict and disrupt people going to work at a massive expense, for a visit from Queen Elizabeth and also for US President Barack Obama.

This costs money we can not afford, and they could bring in emergency legislation to bail out the bondholders and could not do this to save something that was going to be good for our economy.

I am not a Garth Brooks fan, but could see in the city on the days of the One Direction concerts the shops were packed.

It was like Christmas Eve – how could they let an opportunity like this go?

Legislation could have been changed afterwards to ensure that it could not happen again for the residents.




Language by its very nature is for communicating, speaking and hearing. Academic study of the rules of language is a totally different matter.

Down the years, the Irish education system has killed our language by putting the cart before the horse. I got a degree in Irish but could not speak it until I went abroad. I was shamed into it; I wanted the Filipinos and the Chinese and the Spaniards to know that I was not English. You can learn to speak any language in a matter of weeks, if you have to, or starve.

The plain fact is that Irish does not belong in school at all, certainly not in an Irish school. For example, children should be hearing people talking Irish in the playground from the first day. Connacht Irish is the easiest to pick up and the most natural. But what is the use talking to people who think they know better?

Will it ever change? You must be joking. And it doesn’t matter now anyway because these geniuses buried it long ago. Ta an teanga marbh le fada an la.




A deep pain and fear is embedded in the mental and physical make-up of many Israelis.

The terrible scars of the past may never be healed. The atrocities witnessed have broken the spirits of the strongest, leading people to repeat dreadful crimes. The death of so many innocent women and children in Gaza. The innocent, as always, offered up as a sacrifice to those who pretend to have their best interests at heart.

There are two deeply rooted arguments in this horrendous conflict of which neither side comes out smelling of roses. But it is ironic that a race of people who were systematically tortured and killed in the biggest ethnic cleansing horror of our history have not learnt the lessons of the past. A similar torture is being inflicted on the Palestinians. People who have a right to live life with some kind of dignity.

Weak, poor, living in awful conditions in such a small compressed area. Does this ring a bell? Reminiscent of the Jewish ghettos in World War II. Inflicting through the blockade an impossible situation for the Palestinians to live in.

Now the killing ratio is overwhelming in its systematic forcefulness.




The debate on the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict is totally lacking in historical perspective. The reason Israel exists at all is that Europeans set up a frighteningly efficient set of factories in order to exterminate a whole race of people – the Jews. It is even more frightening that they nearly succeeded.

When the present-day politicians talk about their ‘outrage’ at what is happening near the shores of the eastern Mediterranean, they are ignoring the fact that both the Israelis and the Palestinians are fighting for survival. They are in that position because they are the victims of the extreme abuse of power by Europeans.

Both are condemned to fight it out on the ground for control of a small area of the Middle East because European powers in two world wars ordained it so. Europeans, should, therefore, display bit more introspection in this debate.




Recently, there have been newspaper headlines to the effect that the UN has criticised the state of human rights in Ireland, especially in relation to issues such as abortion. Of course, those like the women who suffered symphysiotomy, or those who suffered under state care should be given the care, respect and compensation that they deserve.

However, is it really the place of the UN to advise Ireland to legalise abortion, even though the pro-life provision in our Constitution was enshrined in a binding referendum?

As far as I know, Malta, a fellow EU member, hasn’t being dragged over the coals over its abortion regime, even though abortion in Malta is banned under all circumstances – unlike in Ireland, where abortion, (the Halappanavar case notwithstanding) is clearly legal in the case where it’s required to save the life of the mother.

Also, is Ireland really unique when it came to its record on women’s rights? Illegitimacy was considered taboo in most countries until the late 20th Century, not just Ireland. The UK also kept unmarried mothers in institutions like the Magdalene laundries until the 1960s, and Sweden not only serialised single mothers, but also performed forced abortions, sometimes up to the 1970s.

And that is only in Europe – need I mention China‘s one-child policy and all that comes with it, or India‘s particularly dreadful record on women’s rights? Unless abortion is the only indication of progress on human rights, it’s hard to argue that Ireland’s record on Human Rights, let alone on women’s rights, merited the dressing-down we got from the UN rights committee.




For some reason, doctors have become the baddies in the healthcare debate – we are greedy and lazy and we will do anything if you pay us enough. It saddens me.

I don’t know any doctors who went into medicine purely for the money. I know many who are working long hours, trying to provide the best care possible for their patients, which is becoming increasingly difficult when you can’t get tests or appointments for them outside the private sector.

There are doctors on the media highlighting the issues their patients are facing. Some politicians are listening, others aren’t. Loading extra work and even more bureaucracy on to an already struggling system is not the answer, however politically popular it may be. We need proper debate that crosses party politics and properly planned, resourced change.




I have always felt sure that no matter how dominant women become, there will be a role for men because women and girls are afraid of spiders. Yesterday my four-year-old granddaughter summoned me to the garden because there was a “baby spider” on her dress.

I donned my cape and rushed to her rescue, thinking that she would remember my heroism as I sink into doddering incoherence, only to be ordered in her best princess voice: “Don’t touch it, it’s cute.”

Finally, at 63, I am beginning to feel a niggle of the role confusion so dear to a certain element of the chattering classes.


Irish Independent


July 27, 2014

27 July 2014 Books

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A very very dry day

Scrabble I wins, but gets over 400. perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.


JT Edson was a writer whose fight-packed, politically incorrect Westerns crafted in Melton Mowbray sold 27 million copies

JT Edson

JT Edson

6:30PM BST 25 Jul 2014


JT Edson, who has died aged 86, was a former British Army dog-handler who wrote more than 130 Western novels, accounting for some 27 million sales in paperback.

Edson’s deft, if hardly elegant, works – produced on a word processor in an Edwardian semi at Melton Mowbray — contain clear, crisp action in the traditions of B-movies and Western television series. What they lack in psychological depth is made up for by at least 12 good fights per volume . Each portrays a vivid, idealised “West That Never Was”, fuelled by corny jokes at a pace that rarely slackens.

His authentic descriptions of 19th-century weapons, his interest in what causes a gun to jam and in the mechanics of cheating at cards enjoyed a strong following, especially among serving British soldiers .

But his accounts of catfights involving women punching, scratching and biting as they tear the clothes off each other in the mud, did not appeal to the new breed of feminist publishing executives. Others pointed out that a young man sent to Broadmoor for killing a Sunday School teacher claimed to have modelled himself on Edson’s hero, the half-Comanche, half-Irish Ysabel Kid. There was also the novel The Hooded Riders (1968), which portrayed an organisation resembling the Ku Klux Klan as a heroic resistance group.

In 1984 the Labour Party protested about the characters in JT’s Ladies: they included a gunslinger called Roy Hattersley (then the party’s deputy leader) and his sidekick Len Murray and three desperadoes named Alex Kitson, Alan Fisher and David Basnett — all of them well-known trade union leaders.

At the same time, Edison delighted in pricking southern, middle-class, pretensions. The dedication to JT’s Ladies declared: “For all the idiots of the press who have written articles entitled things like ‘The Fastest Pen in Melton Mowbray’ and have been filled with the most stupid, snob-oriented pseud-jargon never to appear on the pages of mine or any other author’s books. May the bluebird of happiness fly over them when it has dysentery, because that is catching.’’

John Thomas Edson was born at Worksop, Nottinghamshire, on February 17 1928, the son of a miner who was killed in an accident when John was nine. He left Shirebrook Selective Central School at 14 to work in a stone quarry and joined the Army four years later.

As a sergeant in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, Edson served in Kenya during the Emergency, on one occasion killing five Mau Mau on patrol. He started writing in Hong Kong, and when he won a large cash prize in a tombola he invested in a typewriter.

On coming out of the Army after 12 years with a wife and children to support, Edson learned his craft while running a fish-and-chip shop and working on the production line at a local pet food factory. His efforts paid off when Trail Boss (1961) won second prize in a competition – a promise of publication and an outright payment of £50.

The publishers offered £25 more for each subsequent book, and — with the addition of earnings from serial-writing for the comic Victor — Edson was able to settle down to professional authorship. When the comic’s owners decided that nobody read cowboy stories any more, he was forced to get a job as a postman (the job had the by-product of enabling him to lose six stone in weight from his original 18).

Edson’s prospects improved when Corgi Books took over his publisher, encouraged him to produce seven books a year and promised him royalties for the first time. In 1974 he made his first visit to the United States, to which he was to return regularly in search of reference books. He declared that he had no desire to live in the Wild West, adding: “I’ve never even been on a horse. I’ve seen those things, and they look highly dangerous at both ends and bloody uncomfortable in the middle. My only contact was to shoot them for dog meat.”

Edson’s bachelor-tidy study, with a wall covered in replica firearms, was the setting for a daily routine broken by a lunchtime stroll to the local pub. A secretary in the room next door handled his fan mail, income tax demands and the sales in Danish, German and Serbo-Croat. Occasionally he would ask her to help him act out some particularly complicated Main Street gunplay and to help produce a JT Appreciation Society newsletter .

His heroes were often based on his favourite film stars, so that Dusty Fog resembled Audie Murphy, and the Ysabel Kid was an amalgam of Elvis Presley in Flaming Star and Jack Buetel in The Outlaw.

Before becoming a recluse in his last years, JT’s favourite boast was that Melton Mowbray was famous for three things: “The pie, Stilton cheese and myself – but not necessarily in that order’’.

Edson and his wife Dorothy were divorced. They had two sons and a daughter, and he also adopted her three sons by a previous marriage.

JT Edson, born February 17 1928, died July 17 2014


Aseem Malhotra (“Over-treatment is the great threat to western health“, Comment) bemoans the poor quality of hospital food that contributed to the decline in his mother’s condition. He is right to identify this as a major problem, particularly for elderly patients, and many hospital patients will not be lucky enough to have a family to bring them good food.

In a major breakthrough, NHS England has now recognised this as a clinical issue and an increasing number of hospitals are looking to qualify for a new clinical excellence award for their food provision by adopting the Soil Association’s Food for Life catering mark to ensure they are serving freshly cooked, seasonal, locally sourced, higher animal welfare and healthier meals that are independently verified. GP commissioning groups can now make hospital food one of the areas where a hospital’s budget is made dependent on raising standards. Patients should be calling on their local commissioning group to take action to improve their hospital food now.

Peter Melchett

Policy Director, Soil Association,


Gaza’s tragic ocean of hate

In a week of heartbreaking news, the most moving for me was the article by Sayed Kashua (“For 25 years I tried to tell Israelis the Palestinian story. Now it’s time to leave“, New Review). I ache for him and the Palestinian and Israeli people. As a British Jewess, I support the Arab/Israeli Oasis of Peace village Neve Shalom and the Israeli Palestine Bereaved Families for Peace. I feel helpless and these are drops in an ocean of hate. Like Sayed Kashua, I am a lover of books and now I have heard of him I’ll buy his book Exodus, but I fear this will be of little comfort to him.

Sybil Gottlieb

London NW3

Demonising Putin

It was with great dismay that I read the emotional and one-sided rhetoric of your leader railing against Vladimir Putin in the manner of a cold war warrior who can only see one side of a complex situation (“It’s time brutish Putin was held to account“, Comment). It was based on speculation and caricature and ignored the fact that the west’s leaders can be equally, or even more, hard-hearted, irresponsible and thuggish – if that is what Putin has been – in their support for separatists and terrorists in conflicts much further from home than that supported by Russia in eastern Ukraine. Demonising Putin in isolation and depicting him as the only bad boy on the block in this manner denies the fact that western intervention directly and indirectly in Iraq, Libya, Syria and (since supporting the Maidan coup) in Ukraine has led to disintegration, civil war, instability and thousands of deaths.

Professor Richard Woolley

Pickering, North Yorks

Betraying the young

Your leader correctly identifies the worsening position of Britain’s young people on a range of issues – poverty, disease, mental well-being (“Britain’s young deserve better from this government“, Comment). The coalition has diminished the lives of young people by shredding the services designed to encourage and support their development, despite David Cameron’s fine words in 2008. A year ago, it transferred responsibility for youth policy and services to the Cabinet Office. Ed Miliband has pledged to strengthen youth services, if elected. The Liberal Democrats made a similar commitment in 2010, but there will be no glad, confident morning until those who work with the young see detailed proposals to turn words into action.

Tom Wylie

Former CEO, The National Youth Agency


Singling out mothers

I take issue with the term “single” mother or “single” parent. (“Single mothers ‘do just as good a job as couples‘” (News) There is no such thing as a child born of or to a “single” parent. It takes two to make a child, even via artificial insemination. There are children being raised by one parent, most often the mothers, and most often due to separation, divorce or fathers not taking responsibility. The term “single parent” lets these fathers off the hook, as if they had no part in creating the child/ren. As long as “single parent” is used so thoughtlessly and until journalists and policymakers do not think to ask: “Where is the other parent?”, fathers will continue to be let off the hook.

Lorraine Schaffer

London SW16

Celebrate our engineers

I remember little of my engineering graduate and post-graduate degree courses 40 years ago, but still try to employ the logical thinking and professional approach to problem solving that an engineering career trained me in (“Forget damsels in distress: we need more female engineers“, Businessk). Yes there are “too few engineers”, both male and female, and particularly in management, where those logical and professional skills are in short supply. It is good, in a world where bankers, footballers, “celebrities” and pop stars can receive astronomic amounts, that engineers are beginning to be better paid. But don’t look down on the skills of “…. the engineer who came to fix the photocopier”.

David Murray

Wallington, Surrey

Kenneth Clarke

Goodbye to all this: Kenneth Clarke arrives at 10 Downing Street to learn he has lost his cabinet post in David Cameron’s reshuffle. 1 Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

Perhaps avuncular Ken Clarke’s political longevity is due to not being an Etonian millionaire, out of touch with public experience, but he has contradictions (“UK economic recovery ‘not firmly rooted’, warns Clarke”, News,). While claiming to be “on side” with government economic policy, he does concede the folly of depending on a house boom without the productive base to compete long term in global markets, thus repeating the process that got us where we are.

He claims we don’t want to be a low-skills, long-hours economy, but is mystified why productivity is not rising when the whole system is skewed in favour of the rich who constantly plead that top people need top money as incentive – but the rest don’t.

Comparable executive pay in Germany is half that of the UK and they make things with no balance of payments deficit. They also build enough houses without creating a bubble on unsustainable domestic debt. To his credit, Mr Clarke ferociously fought Margaret Thatcher over Americanising the NHS, but still created the disastrous “internal market”.

Bill Newham


Andrew Rawnsley’s article on Mr Clarke mentions the three times when the Tory party rejected him as leader, without emphasising enough the folly of these rejections. If he had succeeded in any of those times, Britain would be a richer and a fairer country. Those of us working abroad in business for 30 years saw him as an ally, who understood that Britain is a trading nation, living by selling “widgets” abroad to provide work for the 25 million people of working age, rather than for the 10% of that number in services. When the recent austerity measures had to be introduced, they would have been more palatable from a government headed by a man from Nottingham high school, not from an Etonian. The original “One Nation Tory”, Benjamin Disraeli, must be turning in his grave.

William Robert Haines


After your (happily) lively postmortem on Ken Clarke, it may seem churlish to flag up one of his less creditable ministerial actions, particularly for a distinguished lawyer. This was his refusal as home secretary in 1992, although a professed opponent of the death penalty, to grant Iris Bentley the pardon she sought for her brother, Derek, on the legalistic grounds that established practice required “moral as well as technical innocence”, a decision the high court overruled, resulting in a pardon in 1995, followed in 1998 by the quashing by the court of appeal of Derek’s conviction. A happy sequel for a man declared to be technically innocent, despite Ken Clarke.

Benedict Birnberg

London SE3

Nicky Morgan may well have promised to listen to teachers (“Morgan hints at a more teacher-friendly attitude”, News) but we should be wary of celebrating the demise of Michael Gove. Every recent education secretary has felt obliged to revolutionise the profession, so there is no reason to assume the new one will be any different. As long as education is a political football there will be no peace for the teachers and children they teach.

Stan Labovitch


As someone concerned to promote a broad, balanced and largely data-free primary education, my advice to Nicky Morgan is to pause, listen and consult, and to begin by consulting her own parents and parents-in-law to see what they would want for their own grandchild’s well-being and education.

Professor Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Cameron’s reshuffle may slightly change the gender numbers but does nothing to alter the social balance; the cabinet is still devoid of those with experience of life at the hard end. Not that Labour can complain as it has rapidly decreased its number of MPs from working-class backgrounds.

Bob Holman



True, the pay gap could be closed significantly if more women took up apprenticeships in traditionally male sectors (“Do I look like I work on Type 45 destroyers?”, 20 July), but why do we accept that jobs in female sectors should pay less?

Demos are right to say that we need to challenge outdated perceptions of work roles, but that includes challenging the notion that women performing vitally important tasks such as nursing the sick, caring for the elderly and looking after the very young should be penalised rather than recognised for doing so.

Closing the pay gap isn’t just about encouraging more women to do “men’s jobs” but about creating equality – of opportunity and reward – across all sectors. This in turn would unlock other equalities, for example by making it economically viable for more men to share childcare responsibilities.

Dr Carole Easton

Chief executive

Young Women’s Trust, London N1

Hurrah for Amol Rajan (“Which of these editors would rather wear the trousers?”, 20 July), who, to paraphrase John Knox, has given “the second blast of the trumpet against the monstrous regimentation of male attire”! This matter is particularly relevant at formal events where the unimaginative uniformity of black tie or morning dress holds sway, whereas with women “anything goes”. David Beckham, alas, failed to set a trend when he wore a sarong which is appropriate in tropical climes – and yet with climate change why not think the supposed unthinkable?

After 150 years mourning the Prince Consort, when the establishment effectively enforced a black dress code, isn’t it time to break free from such constraint?

Women “liberated” themselves following the First World War – why are men so conservative, or are we waiting for practical, as opposed to wacky, expensive and unrealistic, men’s clothes designers?

Russell Webb

Ringwood, Hampshire

Intelligent readers will applaud the courage of Archie Bland’s searching piece on paedophilia (20 July).

Blanket condemnation does nothing to protect children. Asking about the complicated motivations behind a sexual interest in children is the path to helping abusers manage their impulses. Yet even with therapists it’s difficult to raise such questions without being accused of sympathy with the abuser, as I found in publishing my own work on incest.

Mary Hamer

London SE1

To rush to judgement over the causes of an air crash is the road to potentially very serious errors resulting in placing blame in the wrong place. How does your correspondent Andrew Buncombe know if a missile even brought down flight MH17 let alone what kind of missile it was (20 July)? He doesn’t, and is presenting untested allegations as facts. The only sensible course is for a full independent international investigation to report back.

Bill Haymes


Katy Guest (July 20) says that “to kill an author’s mystery is a terrible thing”. But it all depends who the author is. I mean at first J K Rowling seemed annoyed that she had been outed as Robert Galbraith, a supposedly new writer of detective mysteries. Now, however she publicly admits that she’s well into writing the third book in a series which could run longer than Harry Potter!

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

You are spot on in publicising Glenn Mulcaire’s story. We only get so much from court cases, and this tells the story straight from the source. It shows how the News of the World gave up its worthy fight for justice in the hunt for celebrity. That is a question for our society. Well done.

Michael Harley


Personally, I’ll be voting for Ed Miliband’s brain and philosophy, rather than his looks.

H James

Chester-le-Street, Durham


FLIGHT MH17 may have been shot down unintentionally but it was no accident (“This is an outrage made in Moscow”, News, and “Make Putin the pariah pay”, Editorial, last week). Civilian airliners “squawk”, transmitting an identification code that would have clearly distinguished this plane as commercial air traffic. It could not possibly have been mistaken for a Ukrainian military transporter.

The fact is that a highly sophisticated surface-to-air missile system was made available to irregular forces who did not have the discipline or training to assess the situation. The pro-Russian separatists, the Buk anti-aircraft system operators — if they are different — and the supplier of the weaponry, namely Russia, are equally culpable. It was no accident, or terrorism, but a war crime.
William Wilson, London SW11

History repeating itself

Your editorial on the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines MH17 recalls the downing of Iran Air flight 655 by the USS Vincennes in 1988. The American warship was in Iranian territorial waters when it launched its surface-to-air missiles. All 290 civilians on board the aircraft died.

The captain of the Vincennes, William C Rogers III, was subsequently awarded the Legion of Merit by former president George HW Bush. A further irony is that the Vincennes was in the Gulf as part of a western effort to ensure that Saddam Hussein’s ill-fated invasion of Iran would not result in his outright defeat.
Yugo Kovach, Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

Block and tackle

Monetary sanctions are sadly the only option for law-abiding countries. A block on Russian transactions in London would be met with an immediate response to apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice. Strong action also needs to be taken now for the future safety of commercial aviation with handheld rocket launchers in the wrong hands.
Richard Andrews, Witney, Oxfordshire

Supply chain

The Malaysia Airlines tragedy shows what terrible things can happen when powerful destructive weapons are used irresponsibly, having been supplied by a supporting world power. A similar situation exists in Gaza (“Israel sends troops into Gaza tunnels”, World News, last week) where an even higher number of innocent civilians is being killed with equally destructive weapons supplied by a world power.
Bruce Payne, Sheffield

Imbalance of power

In Gaza, one’s sympathy is with the underdog — the side that has hundreds dead and many more injured. On one side there are all the weapons of war, while on the other there are rockets against which Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system protects its civilians.

I do agree with Ari Shavit’s thesis of the missed opportunity for getting even a temporary truce, but the blame cannot legitimately be put on the US diplomatic effort (“War clouds over my sons’ future”, Focus, July 13). It is only the parties to the conflict that can make peace. There is one very serious problem, though. Israel has a huge preponderance of power; the Palestinians have nothing with which to bargain. The rockets from Gaza are a pathetic attempt to get a place at the negotiating table.

Shavit’s article did, of course, contain the answer. There was no immediate threat from the refugees on their tiny strip of desert, so why bother?
FL Gardener, Bristol

Duties of States

If the Afghan people were to democratically elect the Taliban, the western world would abandon them to the sorry fate they chose for themselves and certainly not give them money nor any moral support.

So why is it different for the Palestinians? Hamas, which has shown in recent days its sheer disregard for the lives of the people it is responsible for, did not come to power in a vacuum.

This organisation, whose raison d’être is anti-peace, anti-Jewish and a dedication to the destruction of Israel, was democratically elected by the Palestinian people. It is time for the international community to recognise this fact, and to make the message clear to the Palestinian people that while it supports a Palestinian state, statehood comes with responsibilities. The last thing the world needs is another terrorist regime.
Michelle Moshelian, Givatayim, Israel

Life bans for drivers caught on phone

YOUR heartbreaking article “Killed for the sake of a text” (Focus, last week) reinforces the urgency with which the government must confront this issue. A driving licence is a privilege, not a right, and anyone caught on a mobile phone while at the wheel must be handed a substantial punishment. Repeat offenders and those who cause a fatal accident should be banned from driving for life.

Mike Dunstan, Reading, Berkshire

In plain sight

The law against the use of mobile phones while driving is one of the most openly ignored. It is treated with disdain by many motorists, and it is increasingly hard to spot drivers not breaking this rule.

Rowell Wilkinson, Leyton, London

Wrong message

While I applaud your campaign, I doubt anything will change. A young woman driving behind me spent the whole time looking at her phone. When she stopped at red lights, a police patrol car with two officers inside halted in a queue of traffic opposite. I attempted to alert them but they took no notice and she blatantly continued her texting.

Cynthia Farrell, Warwick

Global threat of antibiotics

THE Conservative MP David Davis highlights antibiotic resistance as one of the greatest threats to our ability to fight disease (“Reckless use of antibiotics will kill more than any war”, Comment, July 13) and it has the potential to become a global catastrophe.

Davis correctly points to the fact that the lack of oversight and regulation of antibiotic use outside Europe is a serious cause for concern. But he is mistaken in his assertion that: “The scientific consensus is that most antibiotic resistance in human infections is of farm-animal origin.”

In reality the opposite is true, as was recognised by the government’s UK five-year antimicrobial resistance strategy, published last year. It states: “Increasing scientific evidence suggests that the clinical issues with antimicrobial resistance that we face in human medicine are primarily the result of antibiotic use in people, rather than the use of antibiotics in animals.”

Of course that does not mean that those of us working in the animal health sector are complacent. The British Veterinary Association has been leading the call for the responsible use of antibiotics both in the UK and across the globe.

Robin Hargreaves, President, British Veterinary Association, London W1

Call NHS managers to account for targeting whistleblowers

YOUR report “Surgeon wins fight after NHS cover-up” (News, July 13) was not the first time we read about the unfair and arrogant behaviour of NHS managers, resulting in the sacking of whistleblowers and disruption to their lives.

When will we learn that unless managers are held to be accountable and given exemplary punishment for their actions against whistleblowers, the whistleblowers will continue to suffer? Perhaps it is time to start a serious campaign.

Arun Baksi, Physician, Rajeev Joshi, Haematologist (retired), Rajiv Ghurye, Rebecca Ashton, Peter Coleman, Martin Davies, General Practitioners, David McNeal, Gynaecologist (retired), John Smith, Chemical Pathologist (retired), Bettina Harms, Paediatrician, Bhupen Shah, Surgeon, Isle of Wight; June Cooper, Anaesthetist (retired), Anglesey, Derek Machin, Surgeon, and Beverley Moore, Gynaecologist (retired), Merseyside, Krishna Korlipara, General Practitioner, Bolton, Lancashire, Ronald Hill, Physician (retired), Wendy Gatling, Physician, Poole, Dorset


Off plan

Everyone in my village is aware that even the present planning laws were not enough to stop a developer building 10 large houses on an orchard in the green belt (“To build better towns we must first demolish the planners’ brick wall”, News Review, last week). The article’s author, Karl Sharro, fails to understand that developers build what they want and wherever they can in order to make a profit. The orchard in question was not what he describes as “derelict agricultural land”; it was part of what makes the area attractive. I agree that too much emphasis is placed upon scrutinising homeowners wishing to extend their properties, but removing planning controls will result in massive urban sprawl.

Nick Craddock, Pewsey, Wiltshire

Gone bust

Audacity has two meanings, one positive, the other not so. The first is bold or daring, the second is impudent or presumptuous (“Audacious as ever: The revamped Chichester Festival Theatre has lost none of its edge”, Culture, last week). Certainly the money has been well spent on the refurbishment and improvement of the theatre, and indeed “they have decluttered the old building, made more space and daylight in the foyer”. But where is the splendid bronze relief by the acclaimed sculptor Lawrence Holofcener? It presents, in the form of a series of busts, Laurence Olivier in 28 of his most famous theatre and film roles. Making inquiries, I was told it obstructed the clean, smooth lines of the architect’s vision. However, it was the vision of Olivier (who became the theatre’s first artistic director at the invitation of local councillor Leslie Evershed Martin) that was behind this regional venue’s lasting success. He put Chichester on the theatrical map, where it has stayed ever since. Almost 30 years ago it was considered absolutely fitting for this to be commemorated by a sculpture, which was unveiled by the humbled and honoured actor himself. It is unforgivable to fail to reinstall that tribute now. Put it back at once. Do others agree?

Mark Walker, Southampton

Badgering farmers

Charles Clover worries that the new environment secretary, Elizabeth Truss, may reduce the number of badger culls taking place (“All eyes on Iron Lady 2.0, caught between Brock and a hard place”, Comment, last week). Clover and the farming community seem hellbent on killing anything that moves in the countryside, unless there is direct financial gain to be had. Far more effective than culling badgers would be to stop compensating farmers for TB in cattle. Then we would very quickly see the introduction of badger-proof fencing around those cattle. Clover claimed that badgers are responsible for the decline of hedgehogs, bumblebees and ground-nesting birds. Farmers and their “modern” practices are clearly much more culpable than the few badgers we have left.

Michael Donkin, Chorley, Lancashire

Jury disservice

Your correspondent Vic Brown gives a very misleading impression of court proceedings (“Guilty as charged”, Letters, July 6). Jurors are supplied with writing pads and pens and encouraged to take notes. Judges almost always provide the jury with written directions on the law and definitely do so in lengthy and complicated cases. Finally, all jurors are advised that should they have any queries during their deliberations, the question should be written down and it will be answered in open court.

Heather Kennedy, Ormskirk, Lancashire

Smoke and mirrors

Amanda Foreman is right to call Colorado’s cannabis legalisation a great social experiment (“Let them eat cannabis cake: a great social experiment has begun”, Comment, July 13). Sadly, though, the canaries in the cage are its own citizens. She wonders “whether people can be trusted to behave like grown-ups; and so far the answer is yes”.Trusting a person to behave like an adult when a chemical is in control of their brain is asking a bit much. A 2013 study by the Maryland Psychiatric Research Centre shows it can take up to eight years for psychosis to manifest itself in cannabis users. Making positive statements about its legalisation six months into the experiment is at best premature.

Nigel Price, Cardiff

Clarifcations on Coll

As the former owner mentioned in your articles about Alexander McCall Smith and the Cairns of Coll (” McCall Smith to give Cairns of Coll to nation”, News and “The No 1 writer’s retreat”, Home, last week), viz “someone who lived on Barra and in whose family they had been for three (sic) generations”, I would like to clarify that my home is in Coll and I work as a Gaidhlig medium teacher in Barra. The Cairns have never been under threat from development, the people of Coll have always had access to them and the wildlife has been free to come and go. This would be the case irrespective of who owns them, due to legislation and regulation over the last 30 years. The money I got from the sale – £140,000 and not “just under £300,000″ stated in your paper – is being used to build my house on Coll, an expensive undertaking in a part of the country where costs are crippling.

These include the need to import sand and gravel to an island rich in beaches, thanks to a general commercial prohibition imposed unilaterally by Scottish Natural Heritage backed by the RSPB in recent years. I am glad that Mr McCall Smith mentions our pre-purchase discussions. I was determined that the islands should not end up in the hands of any conservation body because I did not want to see them, the people of Coll who use them nor the wildlife there subjected to the unnatural controls and destructive management plans which are the hallmark of conservation ownership. To that end, the selling agent was instructed by me to ask Mr McCall Smith at the point of sale whether he was going to gift the Cairns of Coll to any environmental group. Had he stated that this was his intention, I would not have sold him the islands. I am happy now to publicly confirm that he gave the required assurance that he would not do this. That, in my view, is the way to look after the islands.

Miss Kirsty MacFarlane, Isle Of Coll, Argyll and Bute

Corrections and clarifications

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to editor@sunday-times.co.uk or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission (complaints@pcc.org.uk or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)


Allan Border, cricketer, 59; Nikolaj Coster Waldau, actor, 44; Christopher Dean, figure skater, 56; Jo Durie, tennis player, 54; Bobbie Gentry, country singer, 70; Jack Higgins, novelist, 85; Timo Maas, DJ, 45; Julian McMahon, actor, 46; Jonathan Rhys Meyers, actor, 37; Baroness Williams, politician, 84


1694 foundation of the Bank of England; 1890 Vincent van Gogh shoots himself and dies two days later; 1940 debut of Bugs Bunny, in the short film A Wild Hare; 1974 House judiciary committee votes to impeach President Richard Nixon; 1996 pipe bomb at Olympic Games in Atlanta kills one and wounds 110

Letters should arrive by midday on Thursday and include the full address and a daytime and an evening telephone number. Please quote date, section and page number. We may edit letters, which must be exclusive to The Sunday Times


SIR – I am unashamedly proud to be a female contributor to the Letters page (“Don’t women have opinions? Comment, July 25). Each of my few published missives is framed for inspection in the downstairs loo.

Frances Williams
Swindon, Wiltshire

SIR – Just too busy multi-tasking to marshal thoughts – not necessary on “Mumsnet”.

Fiona Wild
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – I have written to the Telegraph on various topics over the years. To date, I have had one letter published and one included in the book Am I Alone in Thinking…?.

Pam Chadwick
Lechlade, Gloucestershire

SIR – I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. I write occasionally and I have been printed three times. All this from a girlie – and in the North East, to boot.

Rosie Harden-Vane
Holywell, Northumberland

SIR – Regular letter-writers Felicity Foulis Brown, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles and Ann Farmer don’t look at all as I imagined – but a pleasant surprise in all three cases.

Anne Bloor
Burton Overy, Leicestershire

SIR – If fewer women are represented on the Letters page, it would also appear that fewer of them have birthdays, going by “Today’s Birthdays”.

Jon Campanini
Twickenham, Middlesex

Healthier pinch of salt

SIR – Your trainee surgeon correspondents speak somewhat disingenuously of a reduction in their working hours as “forced on doctors by the European Working Time Directive”.

One of the strongest lobbies to Brussels for a reduction in junior doctors’ hours came from our own British Medical Association, which still prefers to focus on doctors’ alleged tiredness than to recognise the damage done to training.

For years I’ve enjoyed dialogue with fellow senior surgeons from Ireland and Continental Europe. None bleat about the EU directive, which for some masochistic reason we adhere to so slavishly in Britain. They just get on with educating trainees, and take the directive with a pinch of salt.

Why can’t we be a little street-wise here?

Peter Mahaffey FRCS
Cardington, Bedford

Dry fly

SIR – My mother-in-law’s wig flies off if she uses a hot-air hand dryer .

Sarah Gall
Rochdale, Lancashire

SIR – Your readers seem to have used machines which, if noisy, were at least benign. There used to be one in Great Yarmouth that bore a frightening message: “Dryer will stop after removing hands.”

Andrew Lindqvist
Halesworth, Suffolk

Show a leg

SIR – In the hot weather, would somebody please advise me on the correct length of my shorts. Should this be above or below the knee, and if so by how much?

John Holmes
Crookham Village, Hampshire

Sanctions and Russia

SIR – Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai are among those centres that will be cheering at the prospect of sanctions against Russian oligarchs. Apart from the dubious legality of seizing, or freezing, the assets of the citizens of a country with which we are not at war, there is a noteworthy precedent for the threat.

During the Cold War, there were fears that America would block the accounts of Soviet institutions in New York. The Paris-based subsidiary of the Soviet Foreign Trade Bank, whose telex answer back was “Eurobank”, began placing its dollar deposits in London. So was born the Eurodollar market, and the development of the City of London as the world’s premier financial centre. It is still that, but it is not the only international financial centre.

Stanislas Yassukovich
Oppède, Vaucluse, France

SIR – Congratulations to the Dutch on their superb organisation of a simple and very moving but dignified ceremony to receive the victims of the MH17 plane disaster.

John Buggins
Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire

Noisy adults

SIR – I am 13. On Sunday afternoon, while my younger brother and I were quietly relaxing in the sun, our elderly neighbour began to use a loud hedge trimmer. The noise drove us inside. He used the same trimmer at 7.30am on Tuesday, waking us.

A noisy trimmer is no better than a yelping child. Adults must decide: do they want us to get rickets by keeping indoors and quiet for the sake of their gardens?

Molly Wilson
Hook, Hampshire

SIR – Well done to Bill Hollowell on his method of ensuring that children are discouraged from playing in the garden when, of course, they should be hunched over their iPads, televisions and computer consoles.

Incidentally, how does he deflate tennis balls and destroy model planes?

Patrick White
London SW19

Park and bark

SIR – Regarding complaints over the lack of shade in car parks, a solution would be to leave the dog at home or take the elderly relative into the supermarket. It is, after all, a car park.

Andrew Glendinning
South Rauceby, Lincolnshire

Not so easy to get to see the Games in Scotland

SIR – My husband and I had a great day at the Olympics so thought we’d go to the Commonwealth Games and make a week of it. We applied for athletics (four events), netball and hockey. But we were only allocated tickets for hockey. As accommodation was four times the normal rate, and considering the cost of petrol, we cut our losses and stayed at home to watch on television.

Jonathan Liew writes of “pockets of empty seats at hockey and bowls”. Did others make the same choice?

Lucilla Lang
Knowle, Warwickshire

SIR – Should croquet be included in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games? It was good enough for Alice in Wonderland, and in what other game can you peg out and still live to play again?

Graham Bond
Matching Green, Essex

SIR – I thought that this picture, taken inshore from Chesil Bank, in Dorset, might be a good emblem for the Commonwealth Games.

Nigel Peacock
Llanbedr-y-Cennin, Caernarfonshire

Claude Monet and his wife, Alice, enjoy the pigeons of St Mark’s Square, Venice, in 1908  Photo: http://www.bridgemanart.com

6:59AM BST 26 Jul 2014


SIR – Michael Caine is right to express horror at the cruise ship invasion of Venice. The views of the Salute and the Dogana from St Mark’s and the Riva Schiavoni are permanently scarred, overshadowed by gigantic floating hotels that disgorge tourists who increase the population by up to 15 per cent, destroying any semblance of tranquillity.

The essence of Venice has always been its intimate scale and its infinite, colourful variety of form, structure and light. This is now only a two-dimensional memory to be viewed in the wonderful paintings by Monet.

Venice has always been a fragile place at the mercy of the sea, whence now comes the most menacing threat to date.

Paul Strong
Claxby, Lincolnshire

Persuade Palestinians to abandon extremism with carrot not just stick

Muslim Palestinians need to trust that partnership with Israel can offer them greater security than siding with Hamas

 A Palestinian peers from a window in the Gaza Strip following an overnight Israeli air strike

A Palestinian man peers from a window in the Gaza Strip following an overnight Israeli air strike Photo: REX

7:00AM BST 26 Jul 2014


SIR – The difficulty – not recognised by those who call on it to negotiate – is that whatever concessions Israel makes, hardcore elements in Hamas will not be satisfied until Israel is destroyed. The negotiation of interim concessions is just another weapon in the armoury.

That said, the popular support that Hamas enjoys and which gives it a “democratic” mandate is something that Israel could do more to erode by increasing the amount of carrot offered alongside the stick.

The vast majority of people in the world, Muslim Palestinians included, want simply to get on with their lives and see their children flourish. If they saw that partnership with Israel would deliver this, while the self-interested bile of Hamas would not, they would slowly turn their backs on the extremists.

The alternative for both sides is more hatred and death.

Victor Launert
Matlock Bath, Derbyshire

SIR – The West must be more balanced. The war crime here, if there is one, is Hamas indiscriminately firing rockets into civilian areas and using its civilian population as a human shield against the certain reprisals from the Israeli army.

In Gaza, arsenals have been sited among civilians and under schools, hospitals and mosques for no reason other than to wrench the heart strings of the gullible Western media by portraying Palestinian suffering on our screens. Sacrificing your own children to achieve sympathetic headlines takes terrorism to a new low.

The BBC, particularly, must be careful that by instilling anti-Israel sentiment, it does not fan the flames of anti-Semitism.

Brian Clarke
London W6

SIR – Martin Mears writes of Gaza that the “random firing of rockets will never win a conflict”. However, had one of those hundreds of random rockets that landed close to Ben Gurion airport hit a fully loaded international plane, then there would have been another MH17 situation.

Would the blame even then have been put on the Palestinians, and also on Iran as being the suppliers of those rockets? Knowing the world today, I fancy not.

John Tilsiter
Radlett, Hertfordshire

SIR – Benjamin Netanyahu says his forces tell Palestinians to leave before they shell their homes, but where are they meant to go?

Matt Minshall
King’s Lynn, Norfolk

SIR – Alexander Hopkinson-Woolley points out that the people of Gaza live in terrible conditions. He should ask where the huge amount of aid (including from the British taxpayer) going into the area for years to help the people of Gaza has been spent, while tunnels have been built and rockets fired into Israel.

Linda Morris

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – The news that Angela Kerins is taking a High Court action against the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for all sorts of suffering and stress shows the high opinion that some people have of themselves and the sense of entitlement that those same people think they have.

Angela Kerins was being paid €240,000 per annum for being CEO of Rehab when she resigned after a question and answer session with the PAC. Rehab was being heavily subsidised by the state. While sections of Rehab were losing money or making very little, Angela and Co. were coining it. A large number of Rehab executives were on €100,000 per annum but Angela and Frank Flannery were doing very well, thank you, on very large salaries indeed. Months of public pressure had to be applied to force Rehab to disclose the relevant salaries to the public who were paying a big proportion of these salaries.

It was apparent to all with any sense of proportion that Angela and Co. were too much over the top of the charity pay scales. Even the other charities were critical of Rehab. But were Angela and Frank abashed? Were they ashamed of themselves for receiving large sums of money that would have been better spent on helping the crippled and the lame, the people that Rehab was supposed to be helping? Not a bit of it. Instead they are claiming hurt, stress and all the usual legal words.

Ms Kerins obviously thinks attack is the best part of defence and Mr Flannery seems to be heading along the same road. Isn’t is about time that Ireland grew up and adapted it’s laws so that people like Ms. Kerins and Mr. Flannery could only slink away to deserved oblivion and not cause the unnecessary trouble they threaten at present?

Liam Cooke


Dublin 17

Madam – I am beginning to see a lot of parallels between President Putin of Russia and some of the dictators throughout history

His record on human rights is abysmal. His pronouncements on gay people and their treatment under his presidency is archaic and so out of touch with reality.

If this latest disaster in Ukraine is proven to be a Russian supported mass murder, then I believe he should be charged with a war crime and made appear before the relevant court.

Adolf Hitler‘s activities were tolerated for far too long before he was challenged by the Allies and eventually defeated.

This massacre should be seen as a line in the sand.

Pat Burke Walsh,


Co Wexford

Breaking the laws threatens the peace

Madam – a protestor recently tore down the Israeli flag as seven under-16 Israeli children participated in the European Optimist sailing championship in Dun Laoghaire. Why has there not been an arrest?

To quote Steve Collins, an outstanding, brave Irish citizen whose son was murdered: “If somebody doesn’t take a stand, where will it all end?” No society can exist in relative peace and harmony if laws are broken at a whim without consequence.

The attitude of some seems to be: if you do not like laws governing turf cutting, break the law! if you do not like property taxes, break the law! if you do not like water metering, break the law! if you do not like refuse trucks driven by non-union truck drivers, break the law! if you do not like property auctions in Dublin hotels, break the law!

When will this madness (and that is what it is) end?

When are the citizens of this nation and those in positions of power and influence going to speak up?

As a nation we are slowly heading towards anarchy and we are being led, for the most part, by duly elected officials, and a silent majority.

Vincent J. Lavery,

Irish Free Speech Movement, Dalkey, Co Dublin

Letter writers do have influence

Madam – Once again, I read with interest, another letter by Vincent J Lavery (Sunday Independent, 20 July 2014) on the subject of “Letters to the Editor”. He seems to be very negative on the subject. He describes these letters as “a feel good moment without any result”. Is not the feel good factor a good result in itself?

Editors have a job to do, and may not allow on-going discussions with those in positions of power, but I have no doubt, many letters have their influence, and do not go unnoticed. This page is a big asset to any newspaper, and for many readers, it’s the first page they turn too. A very enjoyable facility in which to air their views. Long may it continue.

Brian McDevitt,



Human life sacred on all sides in war

Madam- Referring to the Israeli/Hamas conflict I believe Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, July 20) misjudges the mind-set of many of those who oppose Israel’s incursion into Gaza when he writes: “But I doubt people would switch sympathies if Hamas rockets kill a larger number of Israeli children.”

There is something inherent in our human psyche that repulses us when we see the spilling of innocent blood, particularly when it is the blood of children. This revulsion does not discriminate between the killings of Palestinian or Israeli children. All human life is sacred.

In the midst of all this senseless killing I am reminded of the words of Vasily Grossman the Jewish writer and war-correspondent from the last century “When you think about new-born babies being killed in our own lifetime, all the efforts of culture seem worthless. What have people learned from all our Goethes and Bachs? To kill babies?”

John Bellew,

Dunleer, Co Louth

Sunday Independent


July 26, 2014

26 July 2014 Astrid

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A very very dry day

Scrabble Mary wins, but gets under 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Lettice Curtis – obituary

Lettice Curtis was a pilot who ferried Spitfires to frontline squadrons and gained her helicopter licence at the age of 77

Lettice Curtis

Lettice Curtis

6:33PM BST 25 Jul 2014


Lettice Curtis, who has died aged 99, was arguably the most remarkable woman pilot of the Second World War, flying a wide range of military combat aircraft with the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) and being the first woman to qualify to fly a four-engine bomber.

She had qualified as a commercial pilot in April 1938, and was working for the Ordnance Survey when, in June 1940, she was approached by the ATA. There was an urgent need for more pilots to ferry aircraft and, with most men joining the RAF, it was decided to form a Women’s Pool to bolster the number of pilots. Lettice Curtis was among the first to join .

With a small group of other young women, she began by flying light training and communications aircraft at Hatfield. She soon graduated to more advanced trainers and also the twin-engined Oxford. ATA pilots often flew alone and with no navigation aids — they had to rely almost entirely on map reading as they ferried aircraft from factories and airfields to RAF units around the United Kingdom. Weather conditions were often difficult.

Until the spring of 1941 there was a government ruling that women could not fly operational aircraft, but everything changed that summer. Without any extra tuition, and just a printed preflight checklist, Lettice Curtis ferried a Hurricane to Prestwick. Soon she was flying the fighter regularly, and it was not long before she was also delivering Spitfires to frontline squadrons.

In September 1941 the role of women pilots was extended further, and Lettice Curtis quickly graduated to the more advanced aircraft, ferrying light bombers such as the Blenheim and the Hampden. She then converted to the even more demanding Wellington, later observing: “Before flying [the Wellington] it was simply a question of reading Pilot’s Notes.”

At the end of September 1942, Lettice Curtis was sent to an RAF bomber airfield where she was trained to fly the Halifax. On October 27, Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt, accompanied by Mrs Clementine Churchill, visited the ATA to meet the women pilots. Lettice Curtis stood under the wing of a Halifax in the pouring rain and was introduced to the American President’s wife as the first woman to fly a four-engine bomber. The encounter prompted a field day in the national press, one headline reading: “Mrs Roosevelt meets Halifax girl pilot”.

In 1943 Lettice Curtis was authorised to ferry more types of heavy bombers, including the US B-17 Flying Fortress. The following year she was the first woman pilot to deliver a Lancaster. By the end of the war, when the ATA closed down, Lettice Curtis was probably the most experienced of all the female pilots, having flown more than 400 heavy bombers, 150 Mosquitos and hundreds of Hurricanes and Spitfires.

Lettice Curtis climbing into a Spitfire

Eleanor Lettice Curtis was born at Denbury, Devon, on February 1 1915 and educated at Benenden School in Kent and St Hilda’s College, Oxford, where she read Mathematics and captained the women’s lawn tennis and fencing teams; she also represented the university at lacrosse, and was a county tennis and squash player.

She learned to fly at Yapton Flying Club near Chichester in the summer of 1937. After her initial training, she flew a further 100 hours solo in order to gain her commercial B licence. She did not expect to get a flying job, but in the event was taken on by CL Aerial Surveys, which she joined in May 1938.

Flying a Puss Moth fitted with a survey camera, she photographed areas of England for the Ordnance Survey. On the outbreak of war she transferred to the Ordnance Survey’s research department and nine months later she joined the ATA.

Post-war Lettice Curtis worked as a technician and flight test observer at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment before becoming the senior flight development engineer with Fairey Aviation in 1953. She also flew as a test observer in the Royal Navy’s Gannet anti-submarine aircraft and regularly flew Fairey’s communication aircraft.

Her love of flying never diminished, and she regularly took part in the National Air Races organised by the Royal Aero Club, piloting a variety of competitive aircraft, among them a Spitfire belonging to the American civil air attaché in London. In this Spitfire she raced against the country’s top test pilots, and achieved a number of high placings. She later bought her own aircraft (a Wicko), in which she competed in a number of Daily Express Air Races.

In the early 1960s, Lettice Curtis left Fairey for the Ministry of Aviation, working for a number of years on the initial planning of the joint Military and Civil Air Traffic Control Centre at West Drayton. After a spell with the Flight Operations Inspectorate of the Civil Aviation Authority, in 1976 she took a job as an engineer with Sperry Aviation.

A strong supporter of Concorde (her Concorde Club number was 151), she made two flights in the famous airliner. In 1992 she gained her helicopter licence, but three years later decided that, at the age of 80, her flying days were over.

A strong-willed, determined individual, Lettice Curtis always felt that the ATA did not receive the recognition it deserved, and in 1971 she published The Forgotten Pilots . Her autobiography, Lettice Curtis, came out in 2004.

Lettice Curtis, who was unmarried, was in great demand on the lecture circuit and as a guest on RAF stations. She was one of the first patrons and supporters of the Yorkshire Air Museum.

Lettice Curtis, born February 1 1915, died July 21 2014


While Polly Toynbee may well be right to say “the solidity of the policies taking shape is giving Labour a new spring in its step”, she omits the fact that it is the moderation of the policies which has lost Labour so many voters, especially to Ukip, predicted in the latest Ashcroft poll to win two of Labour’s target seats (Labour’s got its spring back but what about the swing? 22 July). Goodwin and Ford’s research suggests the defectors to Ukip were not so worried by doubts about Labour’s “fiscal rectitude” as about policies resembling those of the Tories too much, and some members of the front bench being too close to the City (Revolt of the dispossessed, 10 March).

This apparent Catch-22 situation is not insoluble, as there is, in Toynbee’s words, “room for manoeuvre”; policies can be radicalised in some areas without additional cost, as in retaining RBS as a people’s bank, and a declaration of war on tax avoidance. In the struggle to win the swing voter’s trust, Ed Miliband could insist all Labour MPs and candidates make public their tax details prior to the election, so the electorate can be clear there is at least one party willing to be transparent on this important and ethical issue. Cameron failed to carry out his promise back in 2012 that the tax details of the leading lights of the cabinet would go public and completely avoided answering a question about it in last week’s PMQs. Could this be the silver bullet Labour seeks?
Bernie Evans

• Rafael Behr suggests Ed Miliband may end up as the leader with the largest share of the vote by accident (Ed Miliband’s leadership style could put him in No 10, 23 July). But the article gives us evidence that Miliband may yet end up as much more than that. Behr describes Miliband as a consummate team-player and the opposition as a well-organised team. What we do need to see now is more of Miliband and his front-bench team explaining their policies (on the economy, the NHS and education, the three things people most want to hear about) in terms we can understand and, perhaps more importantly, clearly showing us that they are a government team-in-waiting, something no other party will find it easy to do. We don’t want another coalition.
Peter Henderson
Sherborne, Dorset 

• Polly Toynbee’s attempt to create a viable Labour programme encapsulates the party’s dilemma. If it presents a winning manifesto, its government will be at best a slightly less objectionable version of the coalition; if it offers a set of measures that stands a chance of addressing the complex crisis that the country faces, it won’t win. The reason is our electoral system, which is simply dysfunctional. Unless the first past the post system is overhauled, the future is bleak.
Norman Housley

• The proposals emerging from the Labour national policy forum endorsed by Polly are fine as far as they go. But by themselves they’ll not win Labour the election. What we need is the big picture beneath which Labour will campaign. This might consist of: Labour wholly rejecting the Tory and Lib Dem smear it is responsible for the deficit – the public finances went awry when billions of pounds of pubic money went to bailing out the banks; in future the broadest shoulders will bear the brunt of whatever economies are needed; the poor will be treated with sympathy and respect; the Tory/Lib Dem privatisation of the NHS will be halted and reversed; there’ll be a searching review of Britain’s role in the world, in light of the continuing need for economies, to ascertain whether a role similar to Sweden’s and the Netherlands’ would be more appropriate for our country.

Come on, Ed, stop pussyfooting around with Cameron and Clegg and start to think big. There’s not much time left.
Robin Wendt

• The lacklustre cheerleading in Polly’s piece is a key factor in explaining Labour’s drift and irrelevance. She ticks boxes with gusto and visits Trident, austerity, the living wage, rail nationalisation, economic credibility and house-building. That’s fine, but where’s the ignition ? I invite Polly to write an article about Mr Miliband? If she acknowledged his fatally anodyne and timid approach to Britain’s many dilemmas, and urged him to throw off his safety belt, I’d listen to her with respect; and he might listen too.

I’ve been a member of the Green party since 2003 , after leaving Labour when the Blair government attacked Iraq without legal or moral justification. Pardon me if I’m rather partisan but we have all the progressive values, vigour and leadership which Labour lacks.
Maurice George
Ormskirk, Lancashire

I listened with interest to reports on BBC Radio’s Today of concern over the small number of women who appear in letters pages (Letters, 12 July). Given my frequent appearances in print, it is a cause of wry amusement; readers have even been known to complain about my prolific output. The arguments about gender imbalance, and the fact that women just don’t have the time to write, is plainly codswallop. I spend a lot of time in the car, and rather than listen to music, I prefer to hear what’s going on in the world, hence my passion for BBC Radio 4. On reaching my destination, I have had the opportunity to shout out my opinion of whatever the hot topic of the day happens to be in the privacy of my car. By then I have also already formed the letter I want to write in my mind. Writing it down and sending it out into the wider world is the most blessed relief; the perfect way to relieve pent-up frustration at the injustices of this world. If, and when, my penmanship is published, there is also the satisfaction of knowing that I may influence others, even if it is only to respond in disagreement; rather that than apathy. It saves bashing my head against the wall, or beating up the cat. By the way, this took me less than 10 minutes to write.There are those who may say, ‘I can see that it did by the lack of quality.’ Who cares? Not me that’s for sure.
Linda Piggott-Vijeh
Combe St Nicholas, Somerset

• The heavy male bias on your letters page obviously minimises women’s presence and influence, but also excludes feminist voices, which could help reframe the political agenda and the policies and practices of our political parties. My unpublished letters to the Guardian between 2010 and 2014, for example (available on togetherfornow.wordpress.com), bear this out. Unless I manage to be short and “funny” about gender issues, letters don’t get past your gatekeepers. And while I routinely treasure the Guardian letters pages, as a long-term, critical, but devoted, Guardian reader and subscriber, who tries to contribute to a productive dialogue about equality, neoliberalism, environmental values and left politics, for example, I also recognise this hostile reflex to attempts to tackle the complexity of these issues. I have to bear it. But I can’t grin.
Val Walsh

• I get annoyed by the number of letters you publish that just churn out a vested interest. I look at who has signed the letter before deciding if I want to waste my time reading what is obviously a campaign for something or other. On 16 July, I passed over six of these, the classic being from the campaigns officer for the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces using an article on public service cuts to shove his oar in. Equally, I nearly missed a short, beautifully crafted dig at the change of policy by the CoE on women – from an atheist. But the writer was a professor of computer vision etc whose job had absolutely nothing to do with the subject. Do you print such job titles to show your letters page is intellectually superior to others?
Roy Moore
Badsey, Worcestershire

A piece of the wreckage of the

Roger Tooth (Warning: upsetting images, G2, 24 July) criticises Magnum for offering Jerome Sessini’s coverage of the MH17 site. We at Magnum have a 67-year history in photojournalism that stands for integrity, speed and clarity of responding to major events. There are countless examples of our photojournalists getting pictures that have informed the world and they also can shock. This has been the case since even before the start of Magnum, when its co-founder George Rodger was at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and his pictures informed and shocked the world.

Jerome Sessini’s work in getting to the crash site and getting those pictures out was entirely in the best Magnum tradition as an agency. Our job is not to censor the harsh truths but to deliver them to picture editors such as Roger Tooth, who can then decide whether the Guardian’s readership can see them. We do not take that decision; he does. He was shocked that Time.com published them. That is his right but surely as an agency our job is to deliver what we have taken. To quote Roger in his own words, “their place (photographers) is to record; ours is to edit”. We completely agree. That is exactly what we did in this case and will in the future.
Stuart Franklin
Vice-president, Magnum

• In response to Stan Labovitch (The politics of war photography, 25 July), the pictures are not the problem. The killing and maiming of children is the problem and without the pictures the world would not be aware of the full horror of this result of Israel’s actions. We need more exposure of these barbaric actions, not less. It is actions that create jihadists but pictures expose the hypocrisy of those who defend the actions that create the jihadists. I hope The Guardian will continue to bring into the light things that oppressors worldwide and not just in Gaza would rather keep hidden.
Jim Morrison

It is a pity that Simon Jenkins’ excellent article on the folly of western sanctions against Russia (Comment, 25 July) is marred by his comment that the west “sells Russia guns, ships, Knightsbridge flats and places at Eton”. There are two misconceptions here: firstly the sensationalist innuendo that places at Eton can be “bought” and secondly that all Russians with sons at Eton (and there are very few indeed, well below the average to be found in the independent sector) are wealthy. Russian families are to be found among the 21% of our boys whose families receive financial aid in order to enable them to send their sons here. Like any other boy applying for entry to Eton, Russian boys are academically assessed and interviewed in year six. It is as impossible to buy a place here as it is to circumvent the rigorous entry standards.
Charles Milne
Tutor for Admissions, Eton College

Your article (Barack Obama and Xi Jinping to attend major Ban Ki-moon climate summit, 24 July) illustrates the welcome re-emergence of climate change at the top of the global agenda. In the UK, the Climate Coalition, a network of over 100 organisations representing over 11 million people, has come together because of our shared interest in protecting the things many of us love and hold dear. Without action to tackle climate change, the food we produce and import, the wildlife in our gardens and the land we depend on may be changed or lost forever. We therefore look forward to confirmation that the PM’s name is also on the list of attendees, and to the UK playing a leading role at this important summit.
Laura Taylor Head of advocacy, Christian Aid, Neil Thorns Director of advocacy, Cafod, Ruth Davis Political director, Greenpeace UK

• It was good of Stephen Bates (Diary, 24 July) to draw attention to the honour bestowed on Viscount Ridley and his belief that “free enterprise … makes people wealthier, healthier and wiser”. It certainly worked for his family who got more per ton of coal extracted from under their land in Northumberland than the men in my family got for actually digging it out. Tended to kill my family a lot younger too. We are wise to them, however.
Peter Hutchinson
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire

• “Pyramids do actually release more taste” (Report, 24 July). Who cares? Loose tea is the only way to make tea properly. Have you noticed that as we make ever more fuss about how our coffee is made, it is now next to impossible to buy a cup of tea made in the proper way? Teabags of any shape are an irritating and unnecessary invention.
Graham Mytton
Dorking, Surrey

• Yet another reason for the preponderance of foreign players in the Premier League (Letters, 24 July) is the lax tax regime for high-earners that operates in England.
David Grundy

• If your crossword setters’ interest in sex, drugs and rock’n’roll (Letters, 25 July) helps generate wonders like Qaos’s secret agents and Puck’s armadillos (23 and 24 July), then long may it continue.
Jill Cramphorn

Gerard Benson, poet

‘Nothing could match the immediacy of Gerard Benson and the Barrow Poets performing in a basement bar’

I first encountered the fabulous Gerard Benson in the very early 1970s when the Barrow Poets played in a scrubby basement in the Sir Christopher Wren pub in the old Paternoster Square, by St Paul’s Cathedral in London, when I was barely old enough to buy a (legal) drink. While other young things were into Genesis or King Crimson, I was gripped by their spectrum of poetry and music, from their own compositions to Purcell, Byrd, Blake, Keats, Stevie Smith and lots of Anon.

With the endlessly energetic Gerard, small and roundish, reciting, singing and playing kazoo and saw, the visually contrasting William Bealby-Wright, tall and thin and slightly lugubrious, on the homemade cacofiddle – once described in the Guardian as “a kind of DIY, cymbal-augmented double bass, seemingly built by the Clangers” – and the other wonderful musicians and poets, they were electrifying. Later they played in grand venues such as the Royal Festival Hall, but nothing could match the immediacy of the basement bar.

A couple of decades later I made contact with Gerard in person, for a children’s poetry festival. He and Cathy came down to Hampshire from Yorkshire, where they were living, having recently finished a residency at Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage at Grasmere, in Cumbria. He charmed the audience, and was as delightful in person as I could have hoped. Cathy was equally delightful and later sent my daughter a drawing and a poem. It was obvious they were a contented couple, but these calmer waters hadn’t dimmed his performing spark.

A few years later I embarked in a foolhardy manner on an arts festival under canvas, in a field in Dorset, aimed at families and children. It was essential that Gerard should be there. (Ideally all the Barrow Poets would have been there, but that wasn’t possible.) Again he and Cathy travelled south, and again delighted an audience of all ages. If anything stuck in the children’s heads, it was probably Edwin Morgan’s Loch Ness Monster’s Song. Possibly only Gerard would have been rash enough to attempt it aloud.

Our children grew up on the Barrow Poets’ LPs, not all entirely suitable for small children but which should be piped into every school until every child is entranced. The books are wonderful but the aural experience is unbeatable.



Arguments for and against taking children out of school for term-time holidays

Sir, Jenni Russell (“A few days off won’t ruin an education”, July 24) argues sensibly for a more humane approach to holidays in term time, even though the examples she cites are extreme. However, bad cases don’t make good laws — and citing such cases makes it appear that heads are exploiting blunt legal instruments. The reality is that these misfortunes are an inevitable by-product of well-intentioned procedures which are generally fair and predominantly beneficial.

However, as one who taught for 34 years and who as a head of year was responsible for promoting good attendance, I have to agree that holidays were rarely damaging and often beneficial to the student.

It is also true that most are more than capable of catching up, though that is not the case at the beginning of a school year. Those early weeks are crucial for teachers and learning groups in many ways, and no individual should be allowed to disrupt that period by choice. I would also have strong reservations about leave of absence in the months leading up to GCSE exams.

Gerald Cook

Wollaton, Notts

Sir, Jenni Russell does not allow for the possibilty that there may be children who do not wish to miss any schooltime. I was an anxious and conscientious pupil, and it would have pained and grieved me to miss any lessons, despite the lure of a family holiday.

Penelope Elliott

Potterne, Wilts

Sir, Jenni Russell is quite wrong. As a cathedral boy chorister I received and retain an exemplary musical education. However, morning choir practices meant that I consistently missed every theory section of my first year of school chemistry and physics, to the detriment of my undergraduate geology studies.

I began to understand parts of these subjects only after retiring, and having the chance to watch television documentaries on them.

Bob Ferguson

Solihull, West Midlands.

Sir, The most important issue is that very few children holidaying in term time actually do all the set work properly, so falling behind, and damage the education of their classmates since lesson time has to be spent helping them to catch up, to the detriment of the children who were in school. While parents may only consider the advantages of term-time holidays for themselves and their children, schools and teachers must consider the prospects and education of all their pupils.

Jenni Russell suggests that a few days off school won’t ruin an education and that may or may not be true for the children concerned. It will, however, damage the education of the many disadvantaged by the prospect of a couple of weeks in the sun for a few.

Dr Nick Winstone-Cooper

Bridgend, south Wales

Sir, Absence from school is not always harmful. Osbert Sitwell claimed that his education took place during holidays from Eton.

George Garner

Bradninch, Devon

Changing electricity supplier is to venture into a labyrinth of exploitation and subterfuge

Sir, I have just changed my electricity supplier from npower to Extra Energy. In the process I viewed several comparison websites and the Ofgem website.

There is an important fundamental about household electricity suppliers. They are all selling exactly the same product at exactly the same frequency and voltage. To then shroud this single basic product in hundreds of differing tariffs is nothing short of obfuscation. My view is ably supported by Ofgem’s thoroughly unhelpful website: “Allowing consumers to choose their (electricity) supplier helps to keep pressure on prices and drives better customer service. It also promotes innovation in products and services.”

Who is Ofgem trying to fool? There is only one product and the service is to provide it without interruption. There are unknowns in predicting the cost of electricity for the next 12-24 months. Therefore the fixed tariffs that suppliers quote can only be experienced guesses. For Ofgem to continue to endorse the electricity suppliers’ subterfuge and cynical exploitation of unwary, innumerate customers by permitting such a wide range of mainly uncompetitive tariffs is a scandal. In my case the difference in annual cost between npower’s standard variable tariff, that my account would be “automatically” moved to, and Extra Energy was over £1,000. The nation deserves better.

John Redman

Waldron, E Sussex

Instead of taking over green fields why not put solar panels on the roofs of all new buildings?

Sir, Neath Port Talbot council has just given permission for a euphemistically styled solar “park”. This 81-acre (45 football pitches apparently) installation will no doubt make a fortune for its owners, while further draining the government’s coffers. Meanwhile, houses, factories, offices, supermarkets and shopping malls spring up all over the UK with not a single panel fitted. Instead of using up thousands of acres of rural green space, why does the government not simply require all suitable new-build homes and commercial premises to be fitted with solar panels?

The average domestic array costs as little as £5,000, so the outlay for builders buying and fitting thousands at a time would be tiny and for consumers a small rise in mortgage payments would be more than offset by a substantial reduction in fuel bills.

Kate Saunders

Ipswich, Suffolk

Even the Archbishop of Canterbury liked to eat such simple dishes as sausages and mashed potato

Sir, Nelson Mandela’s serving of sausage and mash to a guest (Report, July 23) was in contrast to the experience of Michael Ramsey, later Archbishop of Canterbury. When as bishop of Durham he took up residence in 1952 at Auckland Castle, he inherited as butler the quaintly majestic Ernest Alexander. Alexander rated it infra dign itatem for sausage and mash to be served in an episcopal palace, despite the Ramseys’ liking for the dish. So at mealtimes in the butler’s presence the Ramseys found themselves staging a conversation on these lines. Mrs Ramsey: “What was it again you had for luncheon at the House of Lords yesterday?” Ramsey: “Oh, sausage and mash; yes, yes, sausage and mash, delicious sausage and mash, very nice, very nice.” After a few weeks Alexander caved in.

Eugene Suggett

Dorking, Surrey

The fans of unpasteurised milk dismiss health worries while others call for it to be banned

Sir, We buy raw unpasteurised milk while on holiday in the south of France. (“Selling raw milk will raise risk of TB”, July 23). It has certainly never affected us, and I am not aware of TB being a problem in the locality.

It costs €1.30 a litre (62p a pint), a far cry from the £1.50 you quote, and the milk we buy in the Saturday market is undrinkable by Tuesday.

David Shamash

South Fawley, Oxon

Sir, My five sons, now aged from 25 to 42, were brought up on raw milk, and none has ever been ill, apart from chicken pox. Also, it keeps better than the pasteurised variety.

Amanda Griffiths

Hendre, Flintshire

Sir, The raw milk ban in Scotland came too late for me. Despite working in a bacteriology department dealing with brucella I failed to recognise the danger on my uncle’s farm in the 1970s. When I told him I had caught abortus fever he said, “We farmers never drink raw milk.”

Thomas Law

Sandbank, Argyll and Bute


The letters pages of newspapers have an unwitting male bias. Is there is a feminine reluctance to put pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard

While female letter writers may be relatively rare, they are vocal on many online message forums, not least parenting websites such as Mumsnet.

While female letter writers may be relatively rare, they are vocal on many online message forums, not least parenting websites such as Mumsnet.  Photo: ALAMY

Harry Wallop

By Harry Wallop

6:20AM BST 25 Jul 2014


In the week that the Booker Prize judges announced a 13-strong longlist that included just three female authors, another equality crisis has hit the world of letters.

An academic has written to the Financial Times to complain that of the 115 letters published by the pink ’un over the past three weeks, just three were written by women – and two of those were co‑authors of jointly signed letters.

Perhaps it is not surprising that a paper dedicated to the world of commodities, markets and companies should have so few female readers who want to join the debate. After all, just four of the companies listed in the FTSE 100 have female chief executives.

But it is certainly true that – along with pottering in a garden shed and smoking a pipe – the urge to dash off a missive to a newspaper is a predominantly male activity.

The Daily Telegraph is not immune to this phenomenon. Even on a quiet day there are at least 500 letters submitted for publication, and during the MPs’ expenses scandal this climbed to 1,800. But though our letter writers come from all walks of life and have a catholic and sometimes eccentric view of the world, there are definitely more men than women putting pen to paper.

Christopher Howse, the page’s editor, insists “we are sex-blind on Letters”, pointing out that most people write by email. This means that, as they scroll down, a decision has been made to consider the letter for publication before he, or his assistant editor Sally Peck, has seen the signature. None the less, he estimates that about three-quarters of the virtual post bag comes from men.

A quick audit of 374 letters published this month shows that two thirds were from men, a quarter from women and the rest from people who signed with just their initials. “I am afraid it is a meritocracy. We choose the best letters,” Howse says. “Our first duty is to the readers and to produce a page that is, yes, about important things, but also which will not make them turn over to the obituaries, which is the next most interesting page in the paper.”

There are, of course, far fewer female MPs, bishops and retired generals, a group with a greater propensity to express their views than the general public. But The Daily Telegraph letters page also specialises in whimsy and wry observations about daily life. Howse correctly observes that some of the wittiest and most observant writers are women, who were sending letters long before the advent of email.

A quick glance at the letters pages of the early 1990s shows subjects as varied as kissing, gentlemen’s clubs, pantomimes, Toryism, Beatrix Potter, and the state of Diana and Charles’s marriage exercising women letter writers. Dame Barbara Cartland fulminated at the prospect of an agnostic Neil Kinnock being elected. “Are the Archbishop of Canterbury and all the bishops going to stay silent while the people vote for a man who is against God?” she railed in 1992.

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles: ‘More people know me for writing letters to the paper than for writing books.’

Just a few months later, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, of Northwood, Middx, wrote: “Using the male career yardstick to measure female achievement is as pointless and misguided as complaining that a Ming vase makes an unsatisfactory petrol can.”

The novelist is still a regular writer to the paper. Miss Harrod-Eagles, 65, says she usually composes an email with breakfast marmalade still sticky on her fingers. She is unsure why she is in a minority in her willingness to do so. “Women have the opinions. They just don’t dash off letters to the newspaper about them. Is it about modesty? Men seem to have more of a public persona.

“Maybe it is just in women’s DNA. But I am a writer, I have always dealt in words, and I’ve always read newspapers and it is just natural for me to express what I think.”

What is curious is that while female letter writers may be relatively rare, they are vocal on many online message forums, not least parenting websites such as Mumsnet.

This site has 5.6 million monthly users, the vast majority of whom are women. Justine Roberts, the co-founder, says: “Our busiest forum is ‘Am I being unreasonable?’ – a lot of that is people complaining or people wondering if they should be complaining. It is about seeking validation. It’s not that women don’t get riled or don’t get worked up about stuff, it’s that they prefer to do it anonymously and outside the glare of full public scrutiny.”

Message boards and online chat rooms appeal to women, says Ms Roberts, possibly because “women would rather have a collective voice than stick their heads above the parapet”.

Felicity Foulis Brown: one of The Telegraph’s most reliably sharp correspondents

This is something that chimes with one of the Telegraph’s most reliably sharp correspondents, Felicity Foulis Brown (“people think it rhymes with raspberry coulis, but it rhymes with fowl. And my maiden name was Parrot”).

She is a school receptionist at the independent Reading Blue Coat School and has mastered the art of the short, snappy letter. One example: “SIR – There is no need for the Bank of England to be alarmed about the number of fake pound coins in circulation (report, April 9) – just view it as another branch of quantitative easing.”

Mrs Foulis Brown says: “I do think women are diffident about expressing their views. But I never have been diffident. I always think: this is my opinion, you are welcome to it.

“My daughter is a teacher in the state system and I think she feels that some of my opinions are not politically correct. Her generation – and she is 31 – is far, far, far more worried about political correctness. I think women are more worried now about what other people think.”

When it comes to The Daily Telegraph letters page, women do not just specialise in aphoristic gems in the Foulis Brown mould.

Ann Farmer, a strident pro-life campaigner, writes regularly and eloquently on a variety of weighty issues

A regular correspondent is Ann Farmer, a strident pro-life campaigner, who writes regularly and eloquently on a variety of weighty issues. One from just last month read: “As a disabled person I feel safer under a law that protects my right to life than a law with safeguards that depend on the mood of the moment – which could be discarded once we got used to killing the vulnerable.”

She says she has full sympathy with women who fear that they are somehow holding themselves up to ridicule if they write a letter.

“I remember the first letter I wrote and it was to my local paper; it was about unemployment, I think. It was back in the 1980s. I remember, after posting it, just wishing I could stick my hand into the postbox and get it back. I felt just awful,” she says. “And when I saw that they had published it, I thought ‘you have gone and exposed yourself’.”

She says she still has a morning-after feeling of “Oh, God, did I dance on the table last night?” after sending a letter, but it is worth it in order to fight for her causes.

Sally Wainman, 65, a grandmother of five, who still works part-time as a nurse, is another who writes in the hope of making a difference. A fervent campaigner for sports facilities, especially swimming pools, she has stood as an independent parliamentary candidate in Ipswich to keep open Broomhill Pool. “You can’t know in advance what is going to make a difference,” she says. “I’ve read letters which have made a big impact for a long time. If you feel you want to say something, you should say it.”

And all those who write to The Daily Telegraph say they get a frisson of delight in seeing their letter having made it through as one of the just four per cent (at most) that get published. Miss Harrod-Eagles says: “More people know me for writing letters to the paper than for writing books. People say to me, ‘Are you the Cynthia Harrod-Eagles’, and I say ‘Oh, have you read my books?’, and they say, ‘No, I always see your letters in the Telegraph’.”

Long may her marmalade-sticky fingers continue to reach for the keyboard.

SIR – It is already an offence for ex-lovers to place revenge pornography online; see section 127 of the Communications Act 2003. Any internet service providers, search engines or websites publishing revenge pornography could be party to an offence.

The charging criteria are, first, whether any prosecutions “for revenge pornography” are in the public interest, and, secondly, whether there exists a strong likelihood of conviction.

The challenge for the prosecution authorities is to seek to obtain convictions against any party involved.

Tim Lawson-Cruttenden
London WC1

Shady car parks

SIR – Last year in Puglia, southern Italy, I came across a small municipal car park where the shade provided for cars also acted as a support for solar panels.

Think of the acres of green fields that could be saved if car parks at supermarkets, stations and sports stadiums were also acting as mini solar farms.

Planning should be straightforward, and your correspondent’s request for sheltered parking to protect people and animals waiting in cars would be met.

Lesley Watson
Little Horkesley, Essex

Holding water

SIR – Like a good commuter, I always take heed of the rail company’s order to carry a bottle of water at all times.

However, last Friday my nerve broke and I opened the bottle and drank the water. I spent a further 45 minutes on a train with no buffet. What should I have done?

Steven Broomfield
Fair Oak, Hampshire

NHS pain relief

SIR – Our son was dying of cancer and needed a syringe-driver for morphine. When a second one was needed, the district nurses had great difficulty obtaining one because of shortages.

When he died we decided to devote any donations at the funeral to buying syringe-drivers. Our other son went on the internet and found the exact model used by the NHS at a cost of £90. The NHS would not accept them, as they had to be obtained from their own suppliers. Just one of those cost £1,000.

We were furious. The money we provided would have given another 10 people relief from pain and suffering.

Adrian Robertshaw
Elland, West Yorkshire

Russia sanctions

SIR – Was our Prime Minister being entirely ironic when he suggested that it helps to be a member of the EU in order to “punch above our weight in the world”?

Clearly he could not have been referring to the EU’s response to the murder of 298 innocent people on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 – a series of flaccid, unseemly and humiliating compromises cobbled together to minimise the cost to the other national component parts of the EU.

Paul Harrison
Terling, Essex

SIR – There has been comment on sporting links with Russia in the wake of the MH17 airplane crash, but little mention of Manchester United’s official airline partner, Aeroflot, the Russian national airline.

It would be appropriate for the club to sever its link with Aeroflot and find another airline partner.

D A Pain
Cheriton, Hampshire

Spooner myths

SIR – Christopher Howse writes that Dr Spooner said to a man: “Was it you or your brother who was killed in the War?”

William Hayter, in his biography of Spooner, writes that this story, “though it bears the mark of a typical Spoonerian confusion, is probably apocryphal since it is inconsistent with his habitual sensitive courtesy towards the young”.

There are many anecdotes about absent-minded professors, though people who tell them cannot usually remember whom they are about. One hears a story about Einstein which one has already heard about Dirac, or about Bowra which one has heard about Jowett.

Philip Roe
St Albans, Hertfordshire

Dead noisy

SIR – We moved a decade ago to a house looking over an extensive cemetery toward the Purbeck hills, with no more noisy neighbours. But a new contractor has now been employed by the cemetery who manicures the grass, often using three ride-on mowers and a team of six strimmers from 8am till 5pm.

Sitting on our balcony with the Telegraph or a good book is no longer the joyful prospect it once was, even if we overlook a very well-kept spot.

Alan Saunders
Wareham, Dorset

Merit alone

SIR – Would you print this letter, just because I am a woman? I would hope not!

Trees Fewster
Gomersal, West Yorkshire

Airing grievances on noisy hot-air hand dryers

SIR – The noise from hot-air hand dryers would be more tolerable if they worked effectively.

I saw one with a series of instructions on the front: “Press button to start. Place hands under outlet. Rub hands together.”

Someone had helpfully added a final line: “Wipe hands on trousers.”

Chris Kent
Earley, Berkshire

SIR – Fast and efficient hand dryers may be, but they terrify infants.

Jill Massey
Newton Mearns, Renfrewshire

SIR – With regard to the new breed of high-speed dryers, which you use with your hands vertically above the dryer rather than below, I was very pleasantly surprised the first time I used one at how rapidly and efficiently they disposed of the water, until I realised that it had simply been blown up my sleeve.

Colin McGreevy
Maghull, Lancashire

SIR – I can’t say why hot-air hand dryers are so loud.

However, as the owner of an establishment that has one, I can say that I stopped providing hand towels because I was sick of clearing up the mess left by people who clearly either didn’t know what a bin was for, or were lucky enough to have someone to pick up after them at home.

Kim Halliday
Newport, Essex

SIR – Martin Billingham (Letters, July 21) should move from London SE6 to our village. We have all of the characters that he describes, plus a few more.

There are the ardent cyclists who are incredibly proud of how far they have travelled and how fit they are; the grumpy farmers who relish telling those of us who are not “boys of the soil” how tough things are, and then climb into their Mercs and Range Rovers, which are usually driven home by their wives or partners; and then we have the dog owners whose wives discover that, when walking past the pub at lunchtime (when it is closed), their pet sits resolutely outside the door, refusing to move.

We have our disagreements, but eggs, books, parcels and conversation all pass across and around the bar. Without our differences and our village pub, the world would be a sorrier place.

Don Moorman
Bluntisham, Huntingdonshire

SIR – John Ashworth writes of spotting majors in pubs. It used to be said that there were more admirals per head in Petersfield than any other town in the country.

So I put it to the test, standing outside the busy little town centre supermarket one Saturday morning. To my loud greeting, “Good morning, Admiral”, two gentlemen responded with courteous acknowledgement.

Ian Gregory
Cattistock, Dorset

SIR – I used to go into a pub in Marton, North Yorkshire, where the barman, Jack, kept behind the bar a myna bird that he taught to speak. Every time a customer ordered a drink, the bird said: “And one for Jack.”

Needless to say, Jack never bought a drink.

Peter Gilbert
Thames Ditton, Surrey

SIR – On Wednesday night I watched two processions on television. I saw the joyful exuberance of the athletes in Glasgow, raucously celebrating their youth and energy and excitement at the prospect of competition: the very best of life’s promise and ambition.

And then, on the news, there were images of the stark dignity with which Holland received and honoured the victims of MH17, the tragedy made bleaker by its contrast with what had gone before.

I had just come in from watching a performance of Romeo and Juliet. Must we all forever be divided into Montagues and Capulets, Ukrainians and Russians, Jews and Palestinians?

Tony Fry
Ruthin, Denbighshire

SIR – After the Red Arrows were cheered as they trailed red, white and blue across the city of Glasgow, a stadium full of (mainly) Scots heartily sang the national anthem.

Can we please have this referendum, so that we can all move on?

Gilbert Dunlop
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

SIR – How many of the athletes representing Scotland in the Commonwealth Games will also be eligible to vote in the September referendum?

Mark Whitley
Fovant, Wiltshire

SIR – Should the Scots vote Yes in the referendum, would they automatically become members of the Commonwealth, or would they, as a “new country”, have to apply to become members?

Keith Attwood

Chudleigh, Devon

SIR – Seventy-one nations are attending the Commonwealth Games. Seventy-one nations with links to the United Kingdom and the Queen. Seventy-one nations that could and should have been our main trading partners. Why did we need to join the European Community?

Mike Nicholls
Freshwater, Isle of Wight

SIR – Within 20 minutes, commentators at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games had, between them, managed to find 20 “incredible” aspects of this event. My credulity has been stretched to breaking point.

Michael Amies
Pershore, Worcestershire

SIR – Inspired and inspiring are the most over-used words at the games.

John Dainton
Molesey, Surrey

SIR – Since sporting events are intended to showcase fitness, it was disappointing to see how many people in the opening ceremony were clearly obese.

Catherine Castree
Fetcham, Surrey

Irish Times:

A Chara, – I come from a Gaeltacht background. When I went to school there was nobody at home who would give the time of day to the language I was being force-fed.

English to them was of no “worldwide interest”. Neither were they in any sense deluded about Irish becoming “a vehicle of communication in this country”.

The reason for their lack of interest: when they were in school their language wasn’t even allowed on the curriculum. However, unlike Mr Kavanagh (Letters. July 24th), my grasp of the language I was force-fed is maximal. – Le meas,


An Cimín Mór

Bóthar na Ceapaí,


Co na Gaillimhe

Sir, – Enda Kenny and Joan Burton are to be complimented for their very progressive ministerial reshuffle. We are now served by a Cabinet that includes four first-term TDs (together with the government of an chéad Dáil, the highest number in any Irish government). Seven junior Ministers are first-term TDs (the highest number ever). One Minister is in his 20s and four are in their 30s.

Alan Hansen, upon retiring as a football pundit after the recent World Cup, said his only career regret was saying of Manchester United in August 1995, “you can’t win anything with kids”.

Fergie’s Fledglings (the two Nevilles, Beckham, Scholes, Butt, Giggs) went on to win consecutive Premier League/FA Cup doubles. – Yours, etc,




Co Roscommon

Sir, – In the good old days your friendly building society levied a hefty early redemption charge in the event that inconveniently (for the institution) one sought to repay one’s loan early.

Notwithstanding that the redeemed capital was lent on as a matter of course, self-servingly, the lending institution deemed itself entitled to a chunk of the future profit it had bargained on had the original deal gone the distance.

In a word, usury – an abuse of power in one of its many guises. Today we read that the Government may encounter resistance on the part of the IMF and/or of individual EU member states, in the event that it should seek early redemption of its bailout loans as an exercise in reducing interest charges currently clocking in at more than twice market rates.

Preposterous. Perhaps a strategic revisiting of the default option would bring common sense to bear? On the other hand, if only one knew a little more about economics! – Yours, etc,


Station Road,


Sir, – I refer to your editorial entitled “Protecting data” in The Irish Times of July 23rd.

You state: “For more than a year, irishgenealogy.ie offered online access to the personal details of every citizen born, or who married, in the State.” This statement is factually incorrect. The Indexes to Civil Records held by the General Register Office were launched on the http://www.irishgenealogy.ie website portal just three weeks ago – on July 3rd, 2014 – by the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection and the then Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The portal was set up to assist those, whether at home or abroad, who wish to trace their roots and establish their family history.

The provision of access to the Indexes to Civil Records was a joint project between the Department of Social Protection, the General Register Office and this Department. The records were supplied to this Department by the General Register Office in accordance with the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding agreed between both parties. The addition of the Indexes was seen as a major contribution to the http://www.irishgenealogy.ie website and was warmly welcomed by genealogy researchers, including your own contributor Mr John Grehan in his Irish Roots column (July 7th, 2014), who described the development as “good news” and “simply astonishing”.

Your editorial also states: “How surprising then that a genealogy database, under the control of a Government Department – the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht – was operated in breach of data protection laws.” This statement is misleading as the Department has not, in fact, been found to be in breach of any data protection legislation.

The position is that on July 18th last, this Department was contacted by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, expressing concerns about the availability of personal data in relation to living persons on the website. We responded promptly by disabling access to this data on a “without prejudice” basis so that the nature of the concerns expressed by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner could be examined further.

This Department will continue to engage proactively and responsibly with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, the Department of Social Protection and the General Register Office with a view to ensuring that any issues of concern are fully addressed as soon as possible. – Yours, etc,


Press Office,

Department of Arts,

Heritage and the Gaeltacht,

Dublin 2

Sir, – Joachim Pfeiffer, economic policy spokesman for Angela Merkel’s CDU party, was in town on Thursday to give Ireland its latest lecture on its economic “progress” and to assure the dewy-eyed Irish Government that, no, there was “no chance” of any legacy bank debt deal (Business This Week, July 25th). Mr Pfeiffer claims that the banking and property bubbles were all “home-made”, neglecting to mention that surplus monies from German banks fuelled them – so not actually “home-made”, Mr Pfeiffer.

However, we should derive some measure of pride and succour from Mr Pfeiffer’s hearty reassurance that Ireland – as opposed to irresponsible France and Italy – is “now firmly on the right track” and was “an example to other countries in how it accepted the burdens of its financial past, increased competitiveness through lower labour costs and reformed its tax code”.

Roughly translated, this means that Ireland was nicely compliant in inflicting an austerity regime on its citizens and is now following the same track as Germany, that is reduced wages for lower and middle earners, new and increased taxes, an absence of wage rises nationally and schemes such as our Job Bridge for the unemployed, a scheme akin to Germany’s decade-old “Agenda 2010”, wherein participants work for a little over €1 per hour as a route back into the regular workforce – and a dream for exploitative employers.

So, “firmly on the right track”. But for whose benefit? Yours, etc,


Stillorgan Road,

Co Dublin

Sir – Critics of the location of the National Children’s Hospital at St James’s have thrown up numerous objections to this siting – the most recent, reiterated in The Irish Times on June 8th, refers to the site as having “poor traffic links”.

Any reasonable assessment of the traffic links to James’s Hospital does not substantiate this. For example:

The N7, serving the south and Midlands of the country terminates at Inchicore, five minutes from James’s.

The N4, serving the Midlands and the west of the country, terminates at Kilmainham, again five minutes from James’s.

Mainline rail services serving Waterford, Cork, Galway and points in between terminate at Heuston Station, also five minutes from James’s.

A myriad of bus services pass along the front gate of James’s; the Luas light rail actually goes through the James’s campus.

Travel links such as these will ensure that the National Children’s Hospital will be accessible to all children, families and other visitors regardless of where they live. – Yours, etc,



Leinster House,

Dublin 2

Sir, – Breda O’Brien’s article discussed pressures on children which should be of concern to all parents. In the past parents could engage with these influences since they were generally understood by them, being verbal or written.

Many parents are not up to speed with social media and the internet and consequently are unaware of the reality of what their children are exposed to and unable to do anything about it – should they wish to do so.

Surely this situation is worth discussing in its own right rather than treating anything that Ms O’Brien writes as apologetics for the Catholic Church and attacking her accordingly without actually engaging with what she is saying. – Yours, etc,


Dublin Road,


Dublin 18

Irish Independent:

THE latest onslaught by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) on Gaza, a stretch of land the size of Co Dublin with a population of 1.7 million, is the third time since 2009 that the IDF has invaded Gaza.

Israel‘s latest assault on Gaza has so far led to over 700 civilians being killed, including over 200 children, while less than 40 Israelis have been killed, the vast majority of whom were members of the IDF. This is akin to a person ‘defending’ their home against stones being thrown at it by burning down their neighbour’s house and killing everyone in it. Also the IDF has attacked UN buildings, including schools, which have been used to house almost 150,000 Gazan refugees and have even killed UN employees.

Israel has continually ignored numerous UN resolutions condemning its treatment of the Palestinian people, especially Resolution 242, passed by the UN General Assembly, which calls upon Israel to withdraw its forces to its original 1967 borders, which would also bring to an end its illegal occupation of the West Bank.

Israel’s latest actions have led to the UN investigating the state for war crimes against the Gazan civilian population.

Israel’s blockade of Gaza has led to the slow strangulation of a people.

According to Amnesty International, Israel’s actions have resulted in “mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages leaving four out of five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid”, and it has criticised Israel’s blockade as “a form of collective punishment, a flagrant violation of international law”. Israel is a racist state punishing the Palestinian people for having voted Hamas into power and is supported by the US to the tune of $3bn (€2.27bn) a year.

Various groups, including the Irish Anti-war Movement, have long been calling on Ireland to boycott Israeli goods and for the removal of Israel’s position as a favoured trading partner with the EU.

Cultural links with Israel should also be cut, along with the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. These are the kind of actions that helped to bring about the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Peace will only ultimately come to this part of the world by the establishment of a joint Israeli/Palestinian secular state where the democratic rights and the equality of all citizens are respected.




* Is the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), whose mandate is supposedly to promote and protect human rights around the world, anything other than a toothless and useless talking shop?

This body, since it came into being in 2006, has passed more than 50 resolutions condemning Israel. The cumulative number of condemnatory resolutions directed at Israel is greater than the number of resolutions condemning all the other nations of the world combined – but not one of them has proven to be a catalyst for progress in the region.

Ireland and eight other member states of the European Union are current members of its governing council, but the voice of these EU member states was ominously silent in Geneva on July 23 when they abstained from the vote taken on a resolution that was passed by a majority and is intended to reinforce respect for international law, in response to the latest lethal, bloody and savage conflict between Israel and Hamas. These EU member states were following the direction of the European Union, which is not a member of the UNHRC in its own right. The UNHRC received $122m (€90.7m) in voluntary contributions last year, including over $50m (€37.21m), or 42pc of the total received, from individual member states of the European Union and that included a contribution of $2,618,581 (€2m) from Ireland.

The EU and the US each contributed $13m (€9.6m), or 11pc of the total voluntary contributions. The contribution from Israel was $25,000 (€18,600) and from Egypt, for whom Irish diplomacy expressed a particularly high regard as a regional peace-broker, was a mere $5,000 (€3,700).

Why should Irish taxpayers contribute to the UNHRC when the sentiment of Irish people is suffocated by faceless bureaucrats in the EU on matters of particular concern to them and Irish diplomacy has apparently no direct influence?

Secondly, what weight, if any, does the UNHRC carry in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, apart from publishing soothing statements that protagonists routinely oppose or blatantly disregard? The current Egyptian regime has not demonstrated much regard for Hamas and has made this known through its media; nor has it committed much financial resources to the UNHRC.




* The Government’s decision not to support an international inquiry into Israel’s actions in Gaza is of serious concern.

The appalling situation in Gaza has led to an unacceptable loss of life. The conflict has killed over 700 of which approximately 170 are children. This is utterly shameful and should be fully investigated.

As the death toll continues to rise, I believe that questions now arise from Ireland’s decision to abstain in a UN Human Rights Council vote on whether to investigate Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

I have written to Ireland’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, ambassador Patricia O’Brien, seeking an explanation for this decision and requested information as to what diplomatic efforts we as a nation are deploying to contribute to a resolution to the ongoing atrocities in Gaza. I have also written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, seeking clarity on the matter and what consultations took place ahead of this decision.

The assault on Gaza has had a devastating effect on the civilian population and majority of victims have been women and children. We have a moral duty to protect the most vulnerable and to ensure that human rights abuses are not ignored.




* When the current flare-up of the Hamas/Israeli conflict ends, the only thing achieved will have been a great loss of life. Sadly, many of those killed would have been oblivious as to whether they were Palestinian or Israeli simply because they would have been too young to know. Only the body count distinguishes between the indiscriminate targeting of civilians by Hamas and Israel’s ineffectual ‘pinpointing’ of targets in Gaza where the death tally is 80pc civilian. But we will continue on with our lives as usual while this chaos carries on not far from the border of a EU country.




* Enda Kenny and Joan Burton are to be complimented for their very progressive ministerial reshuffle.

We are now served by a Cabinet that includes four first-term TDs. Seven junior ministers are first-term TDs. One minister is in his 20s and four are in their 30s.

Alan Hansen, in his last column as a football analyst (When I work with Rio Ferdinand and see Twitter I knew it was time to retire, Irish Independent, July 15) said his only career regret is saying of Manchester United in August ’95: “You can’t win anything with kids.” Fergie’s Fledglings went on to win consecutive league/FA Cup doubles.



Irish Independent


July 25, 2014

25 July 2014 Hair

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A very very dry day

Scrabble Mary wins, but gets under 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Capt Hedley Kett – obituary

Capt Hedley Kett was a submariner who took on enemy U-boats, helped to relieve Malta and was awarded two DSCs

Captain Hedley Kett in his role as ADC to the Queen

Captain Hedley Kett in his role as ADC to the Queen

6:18PM BST 24 Jul 2014


Capt Hedley Kett, who has died aged 100, was a successful wartime submarine commander and, post-war, piloted ships in the North Sea and on the Thames.

In 1929 Kett went to sea as a deck apprentice with the Bolton Steamship Co. He entered the Royal Fleet Auxiliary when the Glover Bros tanker he was serving in, Romney, was chartered by the Admiralty during the Spanish Civil War. By 1936 he had obtained his First Mate’s certificate and he joined the Royal Naval Reserve in 1938. When war broke out he was a second officer of the 12,000-ton fleet auxiliary Arndale, and when she called at Colombo to have defensive guns fitted he became her gunnery officer.

Captain Hedley Kett standing proud on Ultimatum

By November 1939 Kett was at home, preparing for his Master’s Certificate, when he was called up; it would be seven years before he sat the examination. He volunteered at once for the submarine service, and his first appointment was as navigator of Oberon. Nine months later he joined Clyde, first as navigator, then as first lieutenant. Clyde was one of the Navy’s largest submarines, with a 57-man crew, and the air was often so stale that off-watch crew were ordered to their bunks at 4pm to conserve oxygen. There was no water for showers or washing, but the food was better than in surface ships. Tinned, oily fish was a regular feature of the diet, to compensate for the lack of sunshine and vitamin D.

On September 21 1941 Clyde was diverted from Atlantic escort duties to Tarrafal Bay, Cape Verde Islands, to investigate a report that German submarines were meeting to transfer fuel, torpedoes and crew. Clyde entered the bay on the surface at midnight, immediately saw the U-boat U-68, and fired six torpedoes which missed and exploded on the beach. Clyde dived to reload, hitting U-111, which happened to be underneath. Surfacing an hour later, they saw a third U-boat, U-67, which Kett, as officer of the watch, tried to ram, calling out: “Hard a-starboard, full ahead together, captain on the bridge”.

Karl Dönitz, the German U-boat admiral, realised that Clyde’s arrival in Tarrafal Bay at the same time as three German submarines was unlikely to be a coincidence, but was reassured that German codes could not be cracked; only long after the war did he learn about the British success in reading his signals. Many years later, too, in Hamburg, Kett met an Elbe pilot who had been a German submariner in Tarrafal Bay. As they swapped stories, Kett learned that U-111 had been so badly damaged that it could not dive and had been sunk by the armed trawler Lady Shirley a few days later; while U-67 had been so badly damaged that it had had to abort its patrol and return to France.

Next, Clyde was diverted for the so-called “Magic Carpet” run, ferrying aviation fuel, ammunition and food from Gibraltar to the besieged island of Malta, where Kett acquired the nickname “Tanker”. The aviation fuel was carried in the submarine’s tanks, but several tons of stores had to be stuffed into every nook and cranny while Kett tried to keep track of its eventual underwater trim. When an Army officer handed him a crate of lipsticks, Kett told him to take them back — but once he was persuaded that they were good for morale on the island, he relented. Having reached Malta, Clyde lay on the bottom of the harbour by day, and by night Kett worked frantically to unload the precious cargo.

After his fifth cargo run to Malta, Kett was flown home in a Wellington bomber to attend the course for submarine captains. He arrived in England on September 24 1942, married two days later, and the course started on September 27. At their diamond wedding his wife insisted that she had still not had a honeymoon.

Kett was awarded a DSC for his bravery and skill in successful submarine patrols.

Captain Hedley Kett (standing, eighth from right) with the crew of Ultimatum

His first command was P-555, which acted as a “clockwork mouse” (dummy target) off Tobermory for surface ships practising their anti-submarine tactics.

Then, in January 1943, he was given command of the U-class submarine P-34. When Winston Churchill decreed that submarines should have names, Kett chose Ultimatum. He remained in the boat for two years during which Ultimatum carried out a work-up patrol north of Iceland and 12 patrols in the Mediterranean.

On October 30 1943 Kett attacked a German U-boat on the surface off Toulon, and for many years he was credited with sinking U-431: in the late 1980s, however, this was reassessed as an attack on another U-boat which escaped undamaged. Nevertheless, Kett was awarded a bar to his DSC for outstanding service in anti-submarine operations.

On his last patrol in the Mediterranean, Kett conducted a survey of the shallow waters off the southern French coast, using his forward-looking short range Asdic (sonar) to locate enemy mines. Each mine was plotted, and no Allied ships were lost to mines during Operation Dragoon, the Allied landings in southern France in August 1944.

By the end of the war, one in three British submariners had lost their lives, and of 18 officers on Kett’s submarine captains’ course, only two survived the war, the other being Admiral Sir John Roxburgh.

William Hedley Kett was born at Ponders End in the Lea Valley on July 28 1913, a descendant of Robert Kett, leader of the rebellion in Norfolk in 1549 against the enclosure of common lands. He was brought up and educated in Blackheath.

Kett was demobilised in 1946, when he received his licence as a London and North Sea pilot. He continued to be an active member of the RNR, commanding the submarine Springer during his annual fortnight’s training in 1950.

In 1966 he was appointed ADC to the Queen . In 1971 he was sworn in as one of the Younger Brethren of Trinity House. In retirement he took up painting landscapes and seascapes .

Hedley Kett married, in 1942, Doris May Mitchell. She died in 2006, and he is survived by their two daughters.

Capt Hedley Kett, born July 28 1913, died June 29 2014


It is no surprise to Unison that two-thirds of fresh chicken in the UK is contaminated with campylobacter (Poultry industry’s dirty secret, 24 July). Back in 1994, privatisation allowed poultry meat producers to do away with independent, government-employed, poultry meat inspectors. Instead, the industry was allowed to employ its own poultry inspection assistants (PIAs). In the smaller plants, the PIA is often the plant owner. Talk about giving the fox the key to the hen house.

Meat inspection is a highly skilled job that has been hopelessly undervalued by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for too long. There is no national standard or qualification for PIAs so many staff are poorly trained – through no fault of their own. Companies are under market pressure to produce a cheaper product for ever more demanding supermarkets. This in turn puts pressure on slaughterhouse staff not to reject unfit birds.

Added to this, there is a high staff turnover and high rates of sickness absence. Major plants are consistently understaffed and use agencies to fill the gaps – leading to a lack of trained staff working in these plants and additional problems of poor hygiene. Only when a qualified and independent meat hygiene inspector is present is the job done properly. Sadly this is getting much harder. Recently, under the instruction of the government, the FSA lobbied to overturn a decision by the European parliament’s environment, public health and food safety committee to reject visual-only inspection of pigs, for example. The result is that since 1 June this year, our members are no longer allowed to physically inspect every pig slaughtered. So, it is chicken in the news today, but it could be pigs tomorrow.

Protection of the human food chain must be the first and most important duty of the FSA. Meat inspectors, official veterinarians and the people who support them defend the consumer each and every day. These roles should not be privatised or weakened. The people who carry out these vital roles feel that both the FSA and the government have abandoned them and put the public at risk, simply to increase the profits in the meat industry. As their union, we cannot silently stand by and let this happen. This week we are balloting our members for industrial action. They don’t want to strike – they want to do their jobs protecting the public – but they are at their wit’s end.We hope that the FSA will begin to negotiate and recognise our members for the important job they do.
Dave Prentis
General secretary, Unison

• There are no “strict industry hygiene standards” capable of protecting the public from campylobacter – this bug has plagued the chicken industry for half a century. For as long as governments encourage systems guaranteed to foster stress and gross overcrowding in poultry, the problems of widespread contamination will continue unabated. An average broiler chicken farm houses 50,000 birds per shed living on a build-up of faeces. As the birds, genetically selected for obesity, grow, so does the congestion. The fear and pain they suffer during catching, transport and the hanging-on process are notorious, and inevitable. The obvious solution? A consumer boycott of all chicken products. Meanwhile, the Food Standards Agency needs to get down to fulfilling its purpose, which is to protect the public, not the poultry industry.
Clare Druce
Holmfirth, West Yorkshire

• Profitable business trumps the nation’s health. And the agency meant to police the producer votes against doing so, not surprising since, as you point out, its board was mainly appointed by Jeremy Hunt. This is bad enough, but just imagine when the business, if it is transnational, can sue our government for interfering with its profitability should our government and its agencies act to put our health before the business’s wealth. That is our future if the EU-US transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) currently being stitched up by the EU and the US (and supported not just by the Tories but also, it appears, by Labour) is agreed.

Given the frightening significance of this, I am baffled by the lack of media coverage. George Monbiot alerted us to it late last year (Comment, 5 November 2013) but since then, nothing. The plotting is highly secretive but not totally out of reach. War on Want publishes a useful booklet on the subject and there are, among other websites, www.bilaterals.org, which includes all the latest news, and www.stopttip.net.
John Airs

• Congratulations to the Guardian for exposing the gross hygiene breaches inside farms and slaughterhouses that can lead to campylobacter infections in people. It is most timely, as today Animal Aid is launching a new campaign initiative with the aim of making CCTV mandatory in all UK slaughterhouses, and independent monitoring of the footage. Clearly, CCTV won’t pick up every hygiene breach but it would record cases – such as you exposed – where carcasses land on the floor and are then put back on the line. Even better, it should deter such acts. It should also deter the kinds of gross abuse of animals that Animal Aid filmed – and the Guardian revealed – inside eight out of nine randomly chosen UK slaughterhouses filmed.

Those interested in supporting the campaign for mandatory CCTV can find out more, and sign the No 10 petition, at www.slaughterhousecctv.org.uk.
Kate Fowler
Head of campaigns, Animal Aid

• Your piece (Eating less meat is a better way to cut CO2 than giving up cars, expert says, 22 July) is about US and global research, and presumably refers to the “feedlot” system of producing beef. Most UK beef and lamb is grass-fed, on land where it is uneconomic to grow other food crops, but this would change if food prices rose. If we stopped eating beef and lamb now, many farms would be abandoned and the natural vegetation would rot down, producing greenhouse gases with no useful product. Supplements are fed at critical periods of infancy, late pregnancy, and sometimes final fattening. These supplements consist of byproducts from the human food chain, such as brewers’ grains or oilseed cake, or they are weather affected crops that have been rejected from their intended use. By recycling these products, beef and lamb producers are increasing the efficiency of the human food chain.

Further evidence of the US focus of this research is given by the suggestion that we should reduce consumption of red meat to 100g a day. That was the weekly ration shortly before I was born, and seems quite generous now. This is put into its proper context by the statement that (in spite of the fact that 100% of the population eat), agriculture “causes 15% of all emissions”. Perhaps we ought to worry more about reducing emissions from industries that produce 85% of emissions. With British food you get lower emissions and higher welfare.
Huw Jones
St Clears, Carmarthenshire

We would like to respond to the deeply unhelpful comment that “senior Lib Dems fear the party could suffer at the election because of the suspension of Lord Rennard” (Report, 22 July). While it is true that Chris Rennard was a talented campaigns chief to whom many “senior Lib Dems” no doubt owe their careers, he was not uniquely so, nor flawlessly. Our letter published in this paper in January (18 January) said: “We note with deep regret the failure of senior members of the parliamentary party to denounce in the strongest possible terms Lord Rennard’s behaviour.”

Since that letter, Rennard has been forced to apologise – for inadvertantly intruding into the personal space of several women – but it appears that there are still those in our party who refuse to understand how damaging these episodes have been. Fundamental to the electoral success of the party in recent years was the perception that we are decent people who generally do the right thing. Agree or disagree with us, people tended to like us.

Senior party members continue to underestimate the damage to that perception of the Rennard scandal itself, the party’s reluctance to tackle it in a timely manner, and ongoing refusal to understand that abuse of power for self-gratification is wrong. It is particularly wrong for an organisation that campaigns against sexual harassment and the abuse of power. That perception among activists or indeed voters will not be restored by campaign wizardry or ignoring the problem, but by dealing with it. .
Katherine Bavage, Grace Goodlad, Chris White, James King, Callum Leslie
Rock The Boat (@LDRockTheBoat)

• David Ruffley’s apology for assaulting his ex-partner is too little too late (Report, 24 July). Someone who perpetrates domestic violence has no right then to say he does not condone it. That is saying “do as I say, not as I do”. He must stand down.

There is another issue here. David Ruffley has taken months to speak to his constituents and did so through a solicitor. Is that open, transparent and accountable? Then there is the matter of Mr Ruffley’s political party. Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner, and Councillor Jenny Antill, chair of Suffolk Domestic Abuse Forum, have rightly spoken out. But their response feels like hollow rhetoric when locally and nationally the Conservative Association fails to take swift action on this issue.
Jane Basham
Labour parliamentary candidate, South Suffolk

• It is hard to know which is the most shocking of the many shocking elements of Isabella Acevedo’s story (G2, 24 July). The immigration minister, Mark Harper, who fails to make proper checks, and whose “punishment” is another government post five months later. Or the taking of someone away from her daughter’s wedding. Or the need for seven immigration officers to detain her. Or that a government minister and a senior civil servant both paid her less than £9 per hour, in the former case for seven years with no increase. Even here in low-wage Barnsley ordinary people pay more than that, and not “cash in hand”. If these people did not realise that Acevedo was an illegal immigrant, what did they think justified them paying someone so little?
Eileen and Michael Sanderson


Suzanne Moore is absolutely right to condemn the tweeting of images of dead children in Gaza (Sharing pictures of corpses on social media isn’t the way to bring a ceasefire , 22 July). They are an affront to the very essence of a civilised society.

If the images were to prevent war I could understand, but they won’t. Instead, they will create even more hatred and a craving for revenge, which in turn will recruit yet more bloodthirsty jihadis. The last thing we need is more voyeuristic war pornography on our social media.
Stan Labovitch
Windsor, Berkshire

• So Suzanne Moore thinks photos of children killed or otherwise affected by war don’t help to bring about peace. As she is a journalist, I find it rather surprising that she hasn’t heard about the effect of such pictures as Nick Ut’s of a naked Vietnamese girl screaming in agony after being napalmed – a picture that, alongside a number of other such depictions of atrocities, did so much to bring about an end to the US’s misadventures in Vietnam.

Shown the truth, citizens demonstrate time and again that they are much more morally upright than their governments, or would-be governments, and public outrage does much to bring such horrors to a close.
Patrick Dodds
Welshpool, Powys

• Lord Beecham (Letters, 24 July) proclaims: “Sinn Féin was not firing rockets daily at the civilian population of the UK.” What did happen was that certain groups exploded bombs in British towns and cities, for example, targeting pubs in Birmingham – 21 killed, 182 injured – and Guildford – five killed, 65 injured. Conversely, the British government, however repressive some of its policies were towards Northern Ireland, did not blockade the area, depriving its inhabitants of food, water, fuel and power.
Gerald Kaufman
Labour, Manchester Gorton

Recent coverage of a U-turn by the business secretary, Vince Cable, on selling off the student loan book (Cable risks new coalition rift by scrapping student loans sale, 21 July) shows that the government must now urgently examine how to put funding for the higher-education sector on a sustainable footing, with a better student loan design that’s not just based on selling off the loans book.

With the imminent lifting of the cap on student numbers after 2015-16 and as universities start recruitment programmes to fill an extra 60,000 undergraduate places, University Alliance warns that we are in danger of creating an unsustainable funding system that could result in cuts to student places or underinvestment in high-quality programmes. Ensuring that these additional places are funded sustainably is crucial for students, universities and the UK: a degree is still by far the best route, especially during this difficult climate, for all young people entering the job market. It is vital we keep our eye on the bigger picture – the far-reaching contribution that graduates bring and will continue to bring to the UK economy and society.
Libby Hackett
Chief executive, University Alliance

It is surely hypocritical of the government to blame Birmingham council over the Trojan horse affair (Report, 23 July) when for more than 20 years governments have emasculated local education authorities and promoted parent power. What happened is what governments have been hoping would happen, with schools reflecting their communities and not being coerced by authoritarian LEAs. What you sow so shall you reap.As we have seen with Academy groups and free schools, the Department for Education can never micro-manage such a wide portfolio of school from the centre, it needs regional authorities (aka LEAs) which can be more hands on and directly supportive and to ensure that financial and other proprieties are properly observed.
Professor Derek Woodrow

• Lewes is not alone in being an apparently prosperous town with hidden poverty (Letters, 24 July). How shocking is it that we have four food banks where many people come to supplement their low pay with essential food for their families? If York can run a successful campaign to become a living-wage city (Society, 16 July), so could many other cities and towns like Lewes. We should not countenance paying anyone less than the living wage of £7.85.
Linda Lamont
Lewes, East Sussex

• The recent smut in the Guardian crossword to which David McAvoy refers (Letters, 24 July) tells a familiar urban story: the setters have turned to sex work to fund their drug habits. For Paul, it’s “nose candy” (16 July), and for Shed it’s “special K” (23 July). Perhaps if the Guardian paid more, then this tragic cycle of prostitution and addiction in the cryptic community could be broken.
Nick Hornby

• Why has the BBC sent all its sports team to some place called Glarzgo? My Scottish friends tell me that the Commonwealth Games are being held in Glesca City.
Colin Shone
Menai Bridge, Anglesey

• Dee O’Connell (Letters, 24 July) asks for a mention of the “black pianist, Dooley Wilson”, who was “the actual player of the piano” in Casablanca. Better a mention of Elliot Carpenter, who was the real pianist – to whose playing Dooley Wilson mimed the piano part.
Mike Ainscough
Henfield, West Sussex

• Could you not find a single female expert to comment on the latest thinking in flexible working (Report, 24 July)?
Rachel Webb
Northallerton, North Yorkshire

The most basic research by Simon Jenkins would have shown him that it is totally wrong to assert that the Tony Blair Faith Foundation is “mysterious” (Tony Blair sees his millions as modest – only in the world of the super rich, 22 July). On our website and through all our external communications we make absolutely clear what we do. The foundation’s charitable mission is to provide the practical support required to help prevent religious prejudice, conflict and extremism. We are a registered charity in the UK and abide by all relevant laws and governance procedures.  

The foundation is governed by independent trustees who ensure we are meeting our charitable objectives. We publish annual reports and other materials that set out in detail how, why and where we work. Our projects include a global schools programme active in 30 countries that equips young people with the knowledge and skills to understand other religious and cultural perspectives and to resist extremist voices. We also work with Christians and Muslim volunteers in Sierra Leone on a malaria prevention programme, where two million people have been reached with potentially life saving information through household visits.
Charlotte Keenan
Chief executive, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation

I read with some surprise Dr Ted Morrow’s article (Safety concerns remain over three-person IVF, 22 July). It seems that Dr Morrow believes his contribution to our expert scientific review was not sufficiently considered. Permit me to assuage his doubts. Dr Morrow was one of a number of prominent scientists consulted through a process that considered 17 separate submissions on this topic. He was a member of a round-table discussion held by the panel specifically so that his and others’ views could be discussed.

In the end the panel considered that, though Dr Morrow’s theoretical standpoint on mismatching was a valid contribution to the discussion, it had not been sufficiently established to justify a reassessment of other scientific views on the safety of mitochondrial replacement, views that differ from Dr Morrow’s concerns.

Among other things, the panel felt that the data he submitted related to inbred mice and Drosophila in a way that did not materially contribute to an understanding of a predominantly outbred human race, and also noted that data obtained in large-scale human genome projects looking for disease associations have not found any consequences due to the exchange of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroups by reproduction. The panel also consulted other scientists with expertise in evolutionary biology, who, while also raising the hypothetical issue of mismatching, assessed the situation differently from Dr Morrow.

Despite all this, the final report, which is publicly available on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority website, covers Dr Morrow’s submissions and the panel’s assessment thereof at considerable length. Acknowledging concerns is one thing; accepting them is another entirely. However, the panel did conclude that consideration be given to mtDNA haplogroup matching as a precautionary step in the process of selecting donors.

The panel’s review has subsequently been considered by the Department of Health, which has decided to place the regulations before parliament, and the decision is now, rightly, in the hands of the legislature.

Let us be clear: safety is and will always be of paramount importance, and the panel is satisfied that the conclusions of the report represent a balanced view of the progress being made towards safety in this area – progress that could offer children lives free from severe and debilitating illness.
Dr Andy Greenfield
Chair of the HFEA’s expert panel on the safety and efficacy of mitochondrial replacement


I do not see why the Liberal Democrat MP David Ward needs to apologise over his remarks about firing rockets.

The Palestinians have been oppressed for decades and in Gaza are forced to exist on a tiny, narrow strip of land. Unless a breakthrough is made in Middle East negotiations, which looks unlikely, there is little hope for them. You can see why they retaliate against their oppressor.

Perhaps if more people, particularly Western leaders, showed more empathy for the Palestinians we would have long-lasting peace.

Clive Mowforth
Dursley, Gloucestershire


Using the maze of tunnels under Gaza to hide and transport weapons to densely populated sites from which to launch indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli civilians is an evil and despicable act which has rightly been condemned as a war crime.

To respond by bombing and shelling targets in the full knowledge that this will result in sizeable civilian casualties is equally a war crime, and has now been denounced as such by Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

A spokesperson for the Israeli government very eloquently stated: “We [Israel] use our arms to protect our children whereas Hamas use their children to protect their arms.” That does not give Israel the right to kill those children.

Israel cannot win a war against Hamas by the use of disproportionate force against the already beleaguered citizens of Gaza. Every picture of a dead Palestinian child is a recruiting poster for the militant arm of Hamas and causes worldwide revulsion against an Israeli regime which seems to care little about its international reputation.

The only way Israel can gain from this conflict is to cease hostilities, use its effective anti-missile defence system and air-raid shelters to protect its citizens and then offer some concessions to the Palestinians. Removing the blockade of Gaza and halting developments on the West Bank might just convince the Palestinian people to silence their extremist arm and work towards a peaceful coexistence.

Malcolm Harding


When Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, says that Hamas “pile up as many civilian dead as they can” to make Israel look bad, he is speaking from a mind-set that has informed the political attitude of Israel’s leaders for many years.

Israel paints an image of itself in the media wherein the victim becomes the oppressor, and the oppressor becomes the victim forced to defend itself. Israel is portrayed as wishing only for peace. The reason, they say, for so many civilian deaths is that the Palestinians use “human shields”, forcing Israel to choose between no response and one that incurs “collateral damage”.

The responsibility for Palestinian deaths is transferred to the Palestinians themselves; Israel is seen as blameless, guilt-free, angry at having been “coerced” into mass murder. In the words of the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”

And thus the cycle of killing and justification becomes self-perpetuating.

Daniel Cohen

As a retired counsellor, I can liken the situation in Gaza/Israel to a combative couple. One swipes at the other ineffectively in frustration and the other batters them severely back. The batterer then tells the social services or the police that the other “made me do it”.

Blame is an ineffective solution to problems. They must sit down and talk.

Margaret Bellamy
Newmarket, Suffolk


Reform the benefits assessment now

We all know that the work capability assessment (WCA) isn’t working. If the Government acts now on the recommendations in the Work and Pensions Select Committee report (23 July), it can make an immediate, positive difference to people’s lives.

Simple changes such as introducing flexibility, so that assessors are not trying to determine how a person’s condition affects their ability to work in an often too-short 45-minute meeting, should make a huge difference to the accuracy of the assessment results. They should also reduce the amount of government money wasted on unnecessary appeals.

Another simple change involves a common-sense approach to reassessments. At the moment people are being reassessed far too quickly following a successful appeal. We have heard of many cases where people are asked to start the whole process again only a month after winning an appeal.

We believe the reassessment phase should instead begin from the date of the appeal outcome.

In the light of the news earlier this year that Atos will withdraw as the WCA provider, it is important that the Government immediately acts upon any changes that can be made to improve the process for people going through the assessments. This cannot wait until the contract is re-tendered in 2018.

Vicky McDermott
Chief Executive, Papworth Trust
Papworth Everard, Cambridgeshire

Cambridge colossus skews degree grades

The Tompkins Table 2014 again demonstrates that disproportionate wealth results in a better academic performance.

Trinity College’s exceptional performance of nearly 43 per cent of its students obtaining a first-class degree should be compared with, say, Lucy Cavendish with its 11.1 per cent and Hughes Hall with its 12.7 per cent.

Trinity’s wealth is put at some £900m (with a reported annual income in excess of £20m), whereas Lucy Cavendish’s wealth is some £24m and Hughes Hall’s some £18m. The disparity of performance ties in with the disparity of wealth, and should be seen as a form of unacceptable elitism.

It is high time that Cambridge University grappled with this problem, which encourages an attitude that there are “good colleges” and other colleges which are also-rans. The problem is perfectly soluble without undermining the college structure, if the university were to put its mind to it.

Oxford University has a similar problem, but fortunately no colossus like Trinity College.

David Ashton
Shipbourne, Kent

Holidays in term-time

Like many others, I have been astonished and dismayed to read of the case of the very sick young man whose mother has been threatened with legal action should she take him on holiday in term-time.

I suggest she does so anyway and enjoys the public pummelling that the relevant head or local authority will get should they be stupid enough to pursue the matter.

I was a primary school head for many years, and my response, when informed that a child was going on holiday – I was rarely asked for permission – was almost always “Have a lovely time, they’re bound to learn more with you than they do with us!”

Richard Welch
Nantglyn, North Wales


Bad moment to shift ministers

What a miracle of timing on David Cameron’s part to fire his experienced Foreign Secretary and infinitely more experienced Minister without Portfolio, and move his Defence Secretary two days before the shooting down of Flight MH17! When cool heads and firm but forceful diplomatic language are required, all we get is megaphone diplomacy for the benefit of the tabloids.

Frank Donald


Just what are these British values?

Allegations of a “Trojan horse” plot by Islamic hardliners to take over the running of schools are indeed disturbing, but I am dismayed that the new Secretary of State for Education should respond by stating that teachers should be barred from the profession if they fail to protect British values.

What constitutes British values is nebulous and open to various interpretations, some of which could themselves be illiberal and unpleasant.

Far better to just outlaw any promotion of racial, religious, sexual or other intolerance and bigotry without hooking this on to an unhelpful notion of what our national values may or may not be.

Jonathan Wallace
Newcastle upon Tyne


Guess who picks up the bill

The publicly remunerated Ed Balls sacks the publicly remunerated Sharon Shoesmith. The publicly remunerated Court of Appeal directs that the publicly remunerated Haringey Council is to compensate her with … er, public remuneration.

Then I woke up. For a horrible moment there I thought that the fantasy financing of the banking crisis had returned.

Roger Harvey


Times Newspapers Ltd

Last updated at 7:32PM, July 24 2014

Why is the government riding itself of experienced lawyers?

Sir, The dismissal of the attorney- general and the solicitor-general last week — and in particular that of the attorney-general by the prime minister because he appears to have given the government unpopular advice on human rights legislation and, possibly, other matters — is a cause for concern.

I had imagined that it was the duty of the government law officers to keep the prime minister and the cabinet on the straight and narrow, so for Dominic Grieve and Oliver Heald to be sacked for doing their job seems rather unfair.

John Cobbett
Hollingbourne, Kent

Sir, I agree with everything that Kenneth Stern said in his letter about law officers (July 21). It is an insult to the legal profession, as Mr Stern stated. Had there been a lord chancellor who was a lawyer sitting in the cabinet, I believe the appointment of two junior barristers to these important offices would not have been made.

Perhaps there will be an expedited application to the queen’s counsel selection panel. If there is I am sure it will be successful. If the lord chancellor makes an application I doubt if he will be successful, not being a lawyer. Whatever the outcome, it shows the contempt the government has for our legal traditions and the Bar in particular.

Henry Green, QC
Great Canfield, Essex

Sir, Perhaps the pool of lawyers in the House of Commons is too small to select the law officers from (letter 22 July), but the government benches in the House of Lords contain a wealth of talent from the Bar who could give independent and informed legal advice: Lord Carlile of Berriew, QC, Lord Faulks, QC, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, QC,
Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, QC and Lord Marks, QC, among others.

Of course, it may be that the government no longer wants the law officers to give independent and informed legal advice. That seems to have been the mistake made by Dominic Grieve, QC, sacked as attorney-general last week.

Lord Pannick, QC
London EC4

Sir, Unless I missed something, any group whose opinions — by definition, in our adversarial process of settling disputes — must be wrong half the time are unlikely to be of much use to any government. Or citizen or corporation for that matter.

How fortunate the legal profession is to have insulated itself completely from the results of its advice, and indeed from the cleansing pressures of market forces, democracy and capitalism.

The fact that they have managed to get away with this for 500 years is no reason for them to continue to do so. It is to be hoped that our elected members will be taking advice (legal or otherwise) on how to deal with this anomaly soon.

Mike Blamey
Macclesfield, Cheshire

The search for Scotland’s most hospitable city continues. Today we reach Stirling …

Sir, I recall my first visit to friends who lived near Stirling. On arrival at around 5pm we were greeted with “It’s too early for a drink. Would you like a gin and tonic?” Needless to say, we enjoyed a dram or two later.

Nigel Bryant


The Sarkozys’ labradors chewed the furniture in the Elysee Palace – that’s what labradors do

Sir, You report that the Sarkozys’ labradors Clara and Dumbledor chewed Napoleon’s chair in the Élysée Palace (July 22) .That’s what dogs (labradors) do. I’m on labrador 5 and 6. Lab 2 chewed (like a beaver) the leg of our Habitat dining table when we lived in a furnished villa in the Middle East. Lab 4 chewed the seats of all my dining chairs — but that was a bonus, because I never liked the original fabric.

Fay Hepworth


When reporting on global warming and climate change we have to take care with temperature conversions

Sir, The annoying corporate metaphor of “boiling the ocean” suddenly becomes less of a challenge if, as you report (July 23) “the world’s oceans broke a monthly heat record at 62.7C” in June.

David A Paterson

Sawbridgeworth, Herts

As ever Matthew Parris has his pen firmly on the pulse of a nation prone to losing its specs

Sir, Matthew Parris comments on “things you lose and hunt for” (July 23) and how they “go away and come back in tides”. The thing to do is distribute them through the house. I bought, a while ago, large quantities of ballpoints, scissors, sticky tape, little torches and notebooks. Every room in the house contains a jar full of pens, scissors, tape and torches, with several notebooks in a nearby drawer. Oh, and batteries for the torches. This causes mirth from other family members; but none of these things is ever more than six feet away; and a large vein of stress remains unmined.

Vuyelwa Carlin

Craven Arms, Shropshire

The New Forest says don’t use your mobile, enjoy nature instead. That is convenient if there is no signal anyway …

Sir, I was amused to read of the New Forest National Park “tech crèche” for phones (July 23). We who live in the park are lucky to get any sort of mobile or broadband signal at all.

Lady Powell

Fritham, Hants

Sir, The New Forest hopes to encourage some of its 15 million visitors to use public transport, cycle or go on foot. I visit the New Forest every year in late autumn and can assure the park that it would have more success in these aims if any suitable public transport existed.

Apart from a short-season summer bus to tourist attractions there are hardly any open forest bus stops in the 219 square miles. The service is infrequent and often late and only rarely do trains stop at Beaulieu Road, the only station in the open forest. It is an environmental and social scandal that all but a tiny section of the forest is a forbidden zone to those without a car or bike. I shall continue to take my mobile phone with me to summon an emergency taxi when the last bus of the day is cancelled, as it often is.

Anne Bowers



SIR – Esther McVey, the employment minister, says that children should be encouraged to believe that setting up their own business is as good as going to university.

This should not be swallowed uncritically by children or teachers. Something like 98 per cent of business start-ups fail, and the great majority of the ones that work do not make their founders wealthy.

Those who have the “spark” to create their own business will do so without encouragement. What they need is a reduction in red tape and in the heavy hand of government.

Kenneth Hynes
London N7

Love and marriage

SIR – When I started my ministry in 1970, a wedding was an occasion for the hatchet to be momentarily buried and a divorced father allowed to “give away” his daughter.

But in recent years, the event has increasingly been used as yet another opportunity to strike a blow in a vengeful divorce, with the father not even invited to the ceremony.

As cleric, I cannot stop people doing vile things to each other, but I will not be a party to such actions, nor will I allow them to take place in my church.

Such bitter charades should be consigned to register offices or hostelries where there would be no chance of them being mistaken for a celebration of human love before God.

Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Fife

Parking in the shade

SIR – In the hot weather, dogs and elderly relatives left in cars while the driver attends a hospital appointment or does the weekly shop can be in grave danger.

Our local hospital has just spent millions on a face-lift, but still the four-acre public parking area has not one single place where a car can be parked in the shade.

Our local Tesco has three acres of parking with very few shaded areas; our local Waitrose has no shaded parking areas at all.

Tesco has announced that it intends to build houses on land previously earmarked for new supermarkets (“Tesco turns land bank into 4,000 new homes”, Business, July 19). Some of the money would be better spent on making shaded parking areas for such customers.

M J Annett
Burstow, Surrey

NHS surgical training

SIR – The reduction in working hours forced on doctors by the European Working Time Directive has been to the detriment of surgical practice, exacerbating difficulties in acquiring our craft-based skills. However, the majority of surgeons are already working well beyond these hours to protect both their patients and their training.

The wider issue at the heart of this is the lack of priority afforded to training tomorrow’s doctors in our target-obsessed NHS culture.

Investment in surgical training today needs to be recognised as vital to the future of high-quality patient care. Health Education England must act urgently to resuscitate our international reputation in training surgeons.

Edward Fitzgerald
Vimal Gokani
Andrew Beamish

Association of Surgeons in Training
London WC2

The ideology of Hamas

SIR – Martin Mears (Letters, July 23) is correct: if Hamas were a logical organisation, it would recognise the futility of launching rockets into Israel.

However, Hamas is not interested in peace. It is only interested in winning the propaganda war, regardless of the cost to Palestinians: hence the decision to site rocket launchers in schools and hospitals.

Kevin Platt
Walsall, Staffordshire

SIR – Mr Mears is completely right about the pointlessness of launching rockets, but fails to consider why Hamas engages in such futile activity. If he were to take into account the terrible conditions in which the people of Gaza live, he might then ask Israel to alleviate some of their suffering.

Israel needs to have more friends; Daniel Barenboim has set an example, with his Arab-Israeli orchestra, that others should follow.

Alexander Hopkinson-Woolley
Bembridge, Isle of Wight

An ill wind

SIR – My overall reaction to the approval of the Rampion wind farm is one of disappointment.

However, if it puts people off coming to visit or live in Brighton, that will relieve our roads of increasingly stationary traffic and, I hope, reduce the Government’s daft housing targets for a town with little available land, sitting as it does between the much-prized South Downs National Park and the sea.

Stuart Derwent
Brighton, Sussex

Returning the ball

SIR – Sondra Halliday asks what she can do about wayward footballs.

There is a solution; carefully insert a very thin screwdriver into the ball through the valve. The sphere will deflate and there will be no evidence to show that the offending object has been tampered with.

Bill Hollowell
Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

SIR – My retired neighbour advised me soon after our arrival with young children that all balls found in his garden would be returned on a Tuesday, if he remembered to do so. It was a system that worked well and that I was happy to comply with.

Friends have found that the planting of stinging nettles to encourage wildlife has also made “fence hopping” less likely.

Sheelagh James
Lichfield, Staffordshire

The cunning old regular who haunted every pub

SIR – John Ashworth writes of “The Major” who used to be in every pub.

In the days when pubs existed by selling drink, they always seemed to be frequented by an elderly man who sat at the end of the bar with a nearly empty glass of ale. Next to him was a gap, for the customer about to come into his web.

He normally wore a flat cap, smoked a pipe and might have a scruffy mongrel at his feet. He knew by instinct how to engage a stranger in conversation.

He always ended up by saying: “Do you know how old I am? … It’s actually my birthday.”

The stranger then felt obliged to buy him a birthday drink. Once the benefactor had left, he would down the pint and wait for the next non-local.

I often saw this in West Sussex pubs, but I’m sure that it happened everywhere.

Martin Thurston
Liphook, Hampshire

SIR – Bill Deedes (editor of The Daily Telegraph from 1974 to 1986 and notional recipient of the “Dear Bill” letters) used to tell me about an inn at Winchelsea, East Sussex, where he would play shove-ha’penny with a local man called Chummy Barden.

Chummy had apparently inherited an ancient post – paid for in beer – which required him to go down to the beach every morning with a telescope and report whether or not Napoleon was coming.

“Wursh waysh of shpending a shummer evening than in the company of such a man,” I remember my grandfather murmuring.

Henry Deedes
London NW10

SIR – Stephen Woodbridge-Smith says that, with his old rotary-dial phone, he has trouble when asked in recorded messages to press numbers. But simulating button-pushing is easy, using a little device that BT used to sell, called a tone generator.

Simply put the keypad over the mouthpiece and press the appropriate keys. The audio multi-tones generated will be the same as those heard when you press buttons on a modern handset. Hey presto! The equipment at the other end jumps into life.

I used to carry the device around for use in the old rotary-dial phone boxes. I still use it when our mains power is cut off and I need to report the fault to a recorded voice system.

Mike Rowe
Offham, Kent

SIR – I empathise with Mr Woodbridge-Smith’s troubles with his rotary-dial telephone. These days, it’s a struggle to find hoops for my crinoline.

Sandra Jones
Old Cleeve, Somerset

SIR – The failure of most European governments during the Thirties to stand firmly against Hitler’s expansionist policies led to a terrible war. Today we have a repeat of the same scenario. Once again, European governments are standing limply on the sidelines, wringing their hands and doing nothing.

If the European Union is to have any meaning, then this is its moment. Please stiffen your spine and act now.

Russell Finney
London SW1

SIR – Ideally, at the operational level, those responsible for the destruction of the Malaysian airliner should be discovered and punished.

However, real culpability is to be found at the strategic level, and this falls on the shoulders of the great powers. A congress comprising Germany, France, Britain, America and Russia must meet to draw new lines on the map.

If this had been done months ago, the airliner passengers and other innocents would have been spared. Western economic sanctions are a cowardly strategy and will do more harm than good to all of Europe.

James Wyllie

SIR – America and (most of) Europe are against arms sales to Russia at this time.

France does not want to lose the sale of its newly completed warships.

Britain has an ageing fleet with a long lead time for replacements.

Does anyone else see the possibility of a compromise here?

Nigel Parsons
Cardiff, South Glamorgan

SIR – Following the belated rejection of soft power – widely recognised as appeasement by David Cameron’s government – it is appropriate to dismantle its components.

The British Council is one. With 7,000 employees in 110 countries, it can be scrapped with good savings to the British taxpayer.

Having successfully wound up the British Council, its current chairman, Sir Vernon Ellis, could use the experience, together with his inside knowledge of the arts, to dismantle swiftly the Arts Council and liberate more funds to assist the common man.

Stephen Lovesey
Wantage, Oxfordshire

SIR – The reason why the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth is not nuclear-powered has escaped my understanding.

It does seem to me that being non-nuclear will blunt the ship’s capabilities more than a little, because its commander will always be concerned about where the next tank of fuel is coming from.

Is this a modern example of spoiling the ship for a ha’p’orth of tar?

David Farmer

Irish Times:

Sir, – The rather naive solution to the conflict in Gaza offered by Prof John Kelly (Letters, July 24th) leaves one speechless. It demonstrates a partisan approach to the conflict, rooted in disregard for the facts and characterised by double standards. Israel kills civilians and it is committing war crimes, Hamas fire rockets indiscriminately into Israel to kill and maim and uses civilians in Gaza as shields and it is merely defending itself. 

The “root cause” of the terrible situation in Gaza would not be addressed by granting the people of both Palestine and Gaza the right to have their own governments and to travel within and out of their territories. While the two-state solution is the only viable long-term one, the root cause of failed negotiations is Hamas and its refusal to recognise, and exist alongside, the state of Israel.

The Hamas charter categorically rejects the two-state solution, a position promoted by Hamas officials but conveniently ignored by most critics of Israel. Hamas does not want to coexist; first and foremost it wants to see the destruction of the state of Israel. Israel has a right to exist and defend itself and while it is tragic that civilians in Gaza are suffering, a significant proportion of responsibility and blame for the death toll must rest with Hamas.

To claim that Hamas’s actions are “more minor” also shows ignorance and a total disregard of the suffering experienced by most Israelis. This is not a one-sided conflict. The fact that fewer Israelis have been killed is not due to “ineffective” rockets but largely to Israel’s capability to protect itself and the value it places on life. Perhaps it would be more agreeable to many critics of Israel if the body count there was much higher.

Hamas has proven time and time again that it has little regard for the welfare of the people of Gaza. There is ample evidence that it is using hospitals, residential areas and schools as platforms for attacks but I see very little condemnation from the media, the UN or those groups who claim to have the welfare of Palestinians at heart. I find it ironic that Prof Kelly calls for a recognition by Israel to afford the same “freedoms” to the Palestinians. Hamas administers Gaza through terror, corruption and intimidation with little regard for life, equality and religious tolerance. Until this is addressed the battles will indeed continue. – Yours, etc,


Kimmage Road Lower

Dublin 6W

Sir, – As the carnage in Gaza continues, Unicef reports the deaths of 121 children, with more than 900 injured (Irish Times report, July 23rd). This is truly a shocking statistic.You quote the spokesman for the UN office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Jens Laerke, as saying “There is literally no safe place for civilians.”

The collective punishment of the civilian population of Gaza by Israel is wrong. The conflict will never be resolved by inflicting such trauma on civilians.It is time for the international community to take a stand against the killing of innocent civilians in Gaza, especially children. The words of the humanistic philosopher Eric Fromm seem very appropriate at this time: “Love of one’s country that is not part of one’s love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.” – Yours, etc,


Ráithín an Róistigh,

Dún Garbhan,

Co Cill Channaigh

Sir, – When the current flare-up of the Hamas/Israeli conflict ends, the only thing achieved will have been a great loss of life. Sadly, many of those killed would have been oblivious as to whether they were Palestinian or Israeli simply because they would have been too young to know. The reckless killing and targeting of innocents is at all times morally bankrupt. Only the body count distinguishes between the indiscriminate targeting of civilians by Hamas (technology nullifies their more deadly intent) and Israel’s ineffectual “pinpointing” of targets in Gaza where the death tally is 80 per cent civilian. We continue with our lives as usual while this chaos carries on not far from the border of an EU country. Yours, etc,



Co Louth

A chara, – One only has to look at the actions of the man considered the father of Irish foreign policy, Frank Aiken, in the 1950s and 1960s to see how subservient our government has become to other countries. Aiken vigorously supported the rights of small nations to self-determination and supported the liberation of African nations from Western colonisers when, broadly speaking, this stance went against how the Western world saw it. As Desmond Tutu famously said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Our government decided yesterday that there shouldn’t be an inquiry into Israel’s actions against the Palestinian people. I wonder what Frank Aiken would have done? – Is mise,


Church Street,


Co Clare

Sir – Soline Marie Madeleine Humbert’s interesting article on Mary Magdalene (Rite & Reason, July 22nd) is, regrettably, somewhat distorted in that she bases all she says on somewhat distorted evidence, namely what we read about Mary in the New Testament.

It should at long last (after nearly 2,000 years!) be becoming clear that what is said about Mary in the New Testament is nothing less than an unmerited and unworthy (by those who perpetrated it) character assassination.

Extra-canonical Scripture, for example the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, the Dialogue of the Saviour, the Books of the Saviour and above all the Pistis Sophia provided a picture, indubitably true, of a very different Mary: a vibrant and spiritually imaginative woman more intelligent and quick-witted than the male disciples and more able to grasp readily the deep meanings of Jesus’s teachings.

Saying 53 of the Dialogue of the Saviour tells us that Mary spoke “as one who had understood completely”. Quite simply, no higher level of understanding was or is possible. And that challenging example of the real Mary Magdalene is something that we should cherish infinitely. Yours, etc,


(Unitarian lay preacher),


Co Westmeath

Sir, – A friend, from the “other” tradition, watching the start of the Commonwealth Games, emailed me to ask when the Irish team would be appearing in the parade. I told him that there was a delay in them coming out onto the field but to wait, perhaps eight years, and we would be there. – Yours, etc,


Ardmore Road,


Co Down

Sir, – Not alone are the Presbyterians responsible for the crimes commited by seagulls (Letters, July 24th) but there is a very real danger that their work ethic will lead to an increase in workaholism, a malady from which the Republic of Ireland is now almost free. – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow

Sir, – Frank McNally’s Proustian moment – Monaghan’s defeat by Donegal in the Ulster Final — may last longer than he would like.

Marcel Proust’s “madeleine memory” was a recurring flashback until he died in his cork-lined bedroom. – Yours, etc,


Cnoc an Stollaire,

Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Donegal

Sir, – Having read the articulate letters, written in English by correspondents whose first language is apparently Irish, I cannot share their apprehension in relation to the minister’s linguistic shortcomings.

Assuming that all those whose first choice of language is Irish would favour even greater Government support for the Irish language, I would suggest that the section of the population that language activists need to win over is the large swathe which uses English for its daily discourse and shows little sign of any intention to change this.

It is probably true to say that the typical 21st century Irish person is likely to be somebody who lives in an urban area, uses the English language and only encounters Irish on official documents and road signs but mainly chooses to look at the English version. It is unlikely that such a person considers the Irish language to be a key part of identity.

Perhaps it might be more productive for the language activists to concentrate on the real challenge facing the Irish language, which is widespread apathy, rather than on the minor linguistic shortcoming in a Minister who is moving to overcome that difficulty and is, by reputation, highly able and well disposed to their cause.

I look forward to the continued efforts of the Irish language lobby to promote Irish in a language of which they have a great mastery and one which their target audience can understand. Yours, etc,


Hermitage Close,

Dublin 16

Sir, – The pursuit of those political miscreants who jumped the gun and erected political posters in advance of the official start date for the May 23rd European and local elections, in addition to those candidates who did not remove their posters on time after the elections, has, I believe, broad public support (“Over 90 fines for unremoved election posters issued in Dublin”, July 24th)

Perhaps Dublin City Council and the other three local authorities of South Dublin, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and Fingal might now turn their attention to the more serious matter of the many thousands of illegal posters defacing road signs at every roundabout, crossroads, traffic light and junction in the county offering to “buy cars for cash”. These posters, which are in breach of the Litter Pollution Act, have become a permanent feature at many of our main junctions.

The posters, many of which cover Yield and Stop signs at road junctions and roundabouts not alone present a hazard to drivers, but are a blatant display of contempt for the rule of law.

Can we expect the statutory fine for each individual illegal political poster erected to be extended to these other posters, in addition to the cost of removing them, or will tax- and ratepayers be stuck with the bill as usual? Yours, etc,


Templeville Road,


Dublin 6W

Sir, – Ronan O’Brien’s article on John Redmond was timely. Redmond’s work on the Third Home Rule Bill will be remembered in Wexford on September 18th on the 100th anniversary of the Bill’s passage into law. John Redmond achieved what Daniel O’Connell, Isaac Butt and CS Parnell could not — the passage of this legislation – a testament to his lifelong political career.

A lecture will be offered by Dr Pauric Travers, which will be hosted by Co Wexford Library Service at 7.30pm in the library at Mallin Street, Wexford.

Incidentally John Bruton will also offer a lecture on John Redmond towards the end of October, hosted by Wexford Historical Society during the Wexford Festival Opera. – Yours, etc,


Old Ross,

Co Wexford

Sir, – Richard Pine (Letters, July 23rd) appears to believe that because his grandmother was an invalid for most of her life, her doctor, the cricketer WG Grace, should bear responsibility for her ailment.

Shakespeare recognised Mr Pine’s problem and has Kent diagnose it in King Lear: “kill thy physician and the fee bestow upon thy foul disease”. And in Henry IV, Part 2 “the first bringer of unwelcome news hath but a losing office”. This is an increasingly common form of paranoia and one recognised particularly by psychiatrists. It might be called Kent’s syndrome or Lear’s fallacy, but as Mr Pine lives in Greece he might appreciate hermenoia, loosely translated as blaming the messenger. Yours, etc,


Central Mental Hospital,


Dublin 14

A chara, – Breda O’Brien raises a serious issue about social media and the effects it can have on young people (Opinion & Analysis, July 19th); Declan Kelly uses it as a chance to go off on a tangent about religion and the indoctrination of children (Letters, July 22nd); I point this out (July 23rd) and Kevin Butler responds by asking why I don’t join Mr Kelly on his tangential journey as he had “raised a serious point” that “merits an answer” (July 24th). Serious or not, it is off topic. Mr Butler may think it is productive to turn every debate into an opportunity to have a go at religion; I think it better to deal with each issue on its own merits without distraction or diversion. The latter allows us to have many interesting discussions while the former results in every debate being a rather boring footnote to a single seemingly endless one. – Is mise,



Co Kilkenny

A chara, – Your obituary of Diarmaid Ó Muirithe (July 19th) states that he “never forgave” The Irish Times for its part in the dodgy Gaelicisation of crack – “a good old English/Scottish word” — as “craic” (Obituaries, July 19th). It would be a fitting tribute from the paper to which he contributed so richly for 22 years to belatedly concede to drop it. – Is mise,


An Pháirc Thiar,


Co Chill Mhantáin

Irish Independent:

The names, the numbers and the stories of the horrors in Gaza need no repeating. They are well documented in your newspaper and on our TV screens every night.

The UN reports that one child has died every hour in the past few days and that Israel has killed more children than Hamas fighters.

As individuals it is easy to feel powerless when the world’s fourth largest army conducts such an onslaught against ordinary people. One thing we can hope for is that our Government represents the outrage of the Irish people at the EU and the UN.

Sadly, we have been let down, badly. At a vote in the UN, calling for an independent inquiry into human rights violations, Ireland abstained.

We joined Germany, Britain and other EU superpowers to permit Israel to behave as it wants with no accountability.

Ireland has been seen by Palestinians and Israelis as a beacon of hope. We show people that despite years of conflict peace can be achieved.

If we are going to parade ourselves as paragons of peace and human rights we should support the standards of international law, formulated after the Holocaust, where every human being is treated with dignity and respect. When these standards are breached we should seek to investigate and prosecute all those responsible.

This vote leaves Irish people with only one choice: increase the boycott of Israeli goods so we send a message to peace-loving Palestinians and Israelis that we still have a moral conscience, even if our Government does not.

After all, the only thing required for evil to prosper is for good countries to do nothing.





Emma Harris (Letters, July 23) compares Israel to Nazi Germany in wanting as she calls it ‘Lebensraum’ or living space. This is a disgusting analogy considering that Nazi Germany murdered six million Jews, while in the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1948 some 22,000 have been killed – a tiny fraction of the 150,000 Syrians killed over the past three years alone at the hands of fellow Arabs.

She is also incorrect in stating that Israel ever since its foundation in 1948 has expanded to conquer territory. On the contrary. In the various wars for survival that it waged against a hostile Arab World, Israel always sought security, not land for the sake of it. In fact, when Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979 Israel gave up the Sinai Peninsula, an area more than three times bigger than Israel today. Since the 1990s Israel has made repeated peace offers to the Palestinians whereby the latter would get almost all the West Bank and Gaza, but has been rebuffed.

Furthermore, Colette Browne in her op-ed the same day betrays a total lack of context in her perspective on the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. She completely ignores how this latest war came about and what is keeping it going: that Hamas, a terrorist organisation which rules Gaza since 2007, initiated a rocket barrage on Israel a few weeks ago; Israel responded with air strikes so as to defend its citizens; Israel accepted but Hamas rejected a truce brokered by Egypt; Hamas kept on bombarding Israel, and so this week Israel was obliged to execute a ground operation so as to destroy Hamas’s military infrastructure.





Any wonder the troika left our shores smiling in appreciation at how well we accepted and coped with our €60bn debt burden. The sting left in their tail has become obvious.

The Government is now paying multiple times the interest rate on bailout loans than it would cost us to borrow on the open market. According to a report on the Business pages of Irish Independent (June 27), replacing €22.5bn of the more expensive IMF loans with normal market borrowings could potentially save as much as €930m for the Exchequer this year.

Why? Because interest charged by IMF increased earlier this year to 4.99pc, while price of borrowing on the open markets has fallen to a fraction of over 1pc annually. Repay or reduce the costly debt with the cheap borrowings you might say; but the agreement specifies it must be paid over 10 years at the higher rate.

Flexibility is what was needed then in repayment – not the current knot that must be reviewed by the Government and IMF immediately.





When RTE One broadcasted the Angelus some years ago, it was accompanied by a brilliant work of art from the ‘Book of Kells’, Jan van Eyck or even the late greats such as Evie Hone or Harry Clarke. In this, it added to the believer’s contemplation of the mystery of the Incarnation; but also offered a small moment of culture.

As Nick Folly (July 22) quite rightly states, the offering now is so bland that one wonders what is the point of the whole thing.





The function of the Minister for the Gaeltacht is to attend to the interests of the 47,000 Irish speakers in the Gaeltacht areas. The function of the Department of Education is to attend to the teaching of Irish in schools in all areas and at all levels.

While your editorial was quite correct in highlighting that the 2011 census results demonstrated that it is now clear that the upward growth in Irish speakers observable since the late 1990s, mainly outside the Gaeltacht Area, is no mere statistical blip but the result of ongoing language restoration and recovery, fuelled by, amongst other things, access to Gaeltacht areas by students of Irish, this has little to do with the need for a minister who is really on top of his brief, by being familiar with the thoughts and needs of the Gaeltacht people, which an earlier fluency in the Irish Language would have surely afforded him.

The myth “that it is a dead language we have been forced to learn badly and, in most cases, against our will”, is quite false for the majority of our citizens, but in any event is not relevant to the appointment of a Minister for the Gaeltacht.





A Chara, I do not agree that the Gaeltacht has so shrunk as to no longer need a minister.

In spite of the fact that the Gaeltacht is under severe strain, due in large part to the total failure of all governments down the years to create an environment which would allow the people of the Gaeltacht to communicate with the State in the Irish language and which would provide employment opportunities for Irish speakers throughout the public service, the Gaeltacht is alive.

However, governmental failure alone calls, not only for a minister of state, but for a senior minister.

I wish Mr McHugh well and look forward to seeing what improvements he will be able to put in place to undo the neglect of the language by governments and to secure the future of the Gaeltacht.




Irish Independent


July 24, 2014

24 July 2014 Hot!

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A very very dry day

Scrabble I wins, but gets over 400. perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.


Dora Bryan – obituary

Dora Bryan was an actress who specialised in the dizzy and scatterbrained but could be equally at home in Pinter

Dora Bryan

Dora Bryan

7:23PM BST 23 Jul 2014


Dora Bryan, the actress and comedienne, who has died aged 91, was one of Britain’s most versatile performers; she was at home in revues, restoration comedies and musicals and equally comfortable in dramatic roles, most notably in the film A Taste of Honey (1961), in which she played Rita Tushingham’s slatternly mother and for which she won a Bafta award for best actress.

With her tiny frame, round, friendly and mobile face, her warm-hearted grin and Lancashire gurgle, Dora Bryan had the gift of appealing to every audience as soon as she appeared. To all her work she was able to bring a breezily adaptable and engaging personality.

Dora Bryan with Rita Tushingham in A Taste of Honey, 1961 (REX)

For much of her career Dora Bryan’s slightly vacant stare and wide smile meant that she was regularly typecast as “dizzy and scatterbrained” characters. One critic complained that “on screen she appeared to be dim-witted”, while journalists described her as a difficult interviewee, one noting her habit of changing direction suddenly and rarely finishing a sentence. Yet her range was such that she could also excel in Ibsen and Pinter.

Dora Bryan’s air of vagueness probably owed much to a nervous breakdown which she had suffered in 1957 when she was admitted to hospital after her second miscarriage in two years. Afterwards she suffered sporadically from depression (she later lost yet another baby), and in 1980 she was again hospitalised, suffering from another nervous collapse.

Yet she remained one of Britain’s favourite comediennes and made a career playing what she described as “empty-headed types”. She starred in several television series designed to showcase her talents, including Our Dora (1968), According to Dora (1968) and Dora (1972), in all of which she played various hapless, apparently simple-minded characters.

Dora Bryan in the play They Don’t Grow on Trees in 1968 (CRIDGE ASSOCIATES LIMITED)

She was born Dora May Broadbent at Southport, Lancashire, on February 7 1923, the younger of two children of the director of a cotton bobbin mill. From the age of five she was determined to become an actress, and at 12 she made her stage debut in a pantomime in Manchester. At 15 she joined Oldham Rep as an assistant stage manager and remained with the company for four years, by which time she had graduated to playing juvenile leads. She spent a further six years in repertory companies at Tunbridge, Colchester and Westcliff-on-Sea.

After working during the war for Ensa, Dora Bryan made her West End debut in Noël Coward’s Peace in Our Time in 1947, and followed it with a two-year run in Traveller’s Joy at the Criterion. In 1950, having established a reputation as a comedienne, she starred in several musical revues at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, the Globe Theatre and the Garrick. By the early 1950s she had adopted the stage name Bryan, claiming that she had taken the name from a box of Bryant and May matches — but that a theatre had misspelt Bryant and she had decided to leave it as it was.

Dora Bryan in 1965 (REX)

Dora Bryan made her screen debut in the late Forties, appearing in a variety of films, including Odd Man Out (1947), The Fallen Idol (1948) and in The Cure for Love (1949), in which she co-starred with Robert Donat. Her versatility was demonstrated by her taking roles in films as diverse as the old-fashioned police thriller The Blue Lamp (1950) and the madcap comedy Mad About Men (1954) — in the latter she had a small part as “an ugly mermaid, playing a conch like the French horn and singing sea shanties”.

In 1954 Dora Bryan married the Lancashire cricketer Bill Lawton. They had been childhood sweethearts, and were engaged for more than 13 years. Friends recalled that Dora Bryan (then starring in Much Binding in the Marsh in London) was annoyed when she read the newspaper headline: “Cricket Hero Bill Lawton Weds Actress”.

In 1961 she came to international attention when she appeared in A Taste of Honey, as the domineering alcoholic mother of Jo (Rita Tushingham), a sulky waiflike Salford teenager impregnated by a black sailor. She increased her reputation for versatility when she followed her success on screen with her portrayal of Lorelie Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1962) at the Prince’s Theatre in London’s West End. She brought, according to the reviewer in The Telegraph, “a fundamentally soulless entertainment to life”, playing her part “as if she were observing her stock role from outside and were able to snigger at it privately to share the joke with us”.

Throughout the Sixties Dora Bryan appeared in various revues and one-woman shows. In 1966 she starred as Dolly Levi in the London production of Hello Dolly! In the middle of that decade, she surprised fans when she became a born-again Christian. By the early Seventies, with the support of her close friend Cliff Richard, she was an active member of a group of Christians who made it their mission to “fight pornography and moral pollution”. The group organised a Festival of Light in 1971 which promoted “love and family life” and in which Dora Bryan and Cliff Richard starred together.

But her new-found faith did not spell the end of her problems, and she was forced to pull out of her part in On the 20th Century in 1980 with nervous strain.

“One day I was rehearsing,” she recalled, “the next I was in hospital and they were feeding me tranquillisers.” She also had to confront the fact that she had a serious drink problem, and joined Alcoholics Anonymous. (Later her adopted daughter, Georgina, would die from alcoholism at the age of only 36.)

After a complete break from performing, during which she concentrated on running the family business (a hotel in Brighton, which she later converted into a block of flats), Dora Bryan returned to the stage in Aladdin (1982). She said that one of the reasons she returned to work was that she and her family were almost bankrupt and she needed the money.

She went on to appear in numerous classical roles, among them Mistress Quickly in The Merry Wives of Windsor (1984), Mrs Hardcastle in She Stoops to Conquer (also 1984) and the Postmistress in The Apple Cart (1985). She also supplemented her income from the theatre by appearing in television advertisements for Woolworths.

Thereafter she continued to appear from time to time on stage. She won an Olivier Award in 1996 for her role in the West End production of Harold Pinter’s play The Birthday Party, and in the same year was appointed OBE.

Dora Bryan’s other films included The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery (1970) and Apartment Zero (1989). On television, she appeared in Victoria Wood’s sitcom Dinnerladies (1999), and from 2001 to 2005 she played Thora Hird’s sister Aunt Ros Utterthwaite in Last of the Summer Wine. She also had a cameo role in the hit series Absolutely Fabulous.

Dora Bryan with June Whitfield in Absolutely Fabulous (TELEVISION STILLS)

She released a hit record, All I Want for Christmas is a Beatle, in 1963. Her autobiography, According To Dora, was published in 1987.

Her husband Bill Lawton died in 2008, and she is survived by their son and their adopted son.

Dora Bryan, born February 7 1923, died July 23 2014


It is alarming that western leaders, including Cameron, seek to pose as judge, jury and executioner on the issue of who downed MH 17 (Report, 23 July). Why are none of them championing the legal route? They need to gather the evidence from the crash site, from the witnesses who saw the Buk missiles in Torez etc – give it all to the judges at the international criminal court in the Hague (self-evidently the right place for this case to be heard) and have them try those deemed to be responsible for the crime. Eleven years ago, Vanessa Redgrave called, at the rally in Hyde Park, for that route to be taken against Saddam Hussein, rather than the Bush-Blair invasion: think how much trouble and pain it would have saved had her advice been taken.

If a link can be proved between Putin’s government and the MH17 crime, let him be called as an accessory. And if he doesn’t come, let him be tried in absentia. And if, as he did a month ago with Assad, he tries to get the UN security council to block the prosecution, find a way to try him anyway. The world must see that the force of law can prevail over the law of force.

In the 1980s, my organisation spent nine years working to end the cold war through youth citizen diplomacy. The last thing we want to see is a resumption of cold war tensions. No one has a quarrel with the Russian people: why punish them with level 3 sanctions? Everyone has a problem with a government that gives lethal weapons to rebel armies who do not know how to use them and causes the death of hundreds of innocent people. It is such governments, and the individuals who lead them, who must be punished.
David Woollcombe
President, Peace Child International

David Cameron‘s comment that France’s sale of helicopter carrier/assault ships would be “unthinkable in Britain” (Cameron calls for arms sales ban, 22 July) is the purest hypocrisy. The article mentions UK arms sales to Russia of many billions of pounds and no doubt UK companies competed for many of the contracts won by France and Germany. Anyway, as the privatised UK energy companies are buying huge quantities of Russian gas and coal, it is UK consumers who are helping to pay Russia’s arms bill.

Politicians always play fast and loose with the truth where arms sales are concerned and myopia and a bad memory are also great political assets in the arms trade: British fighter jets helped to bring down Allende in Chile, UK Centurion tanks were the core of victorious Israeli battles, and in the recent past the UK delivered weapons to a rightwing Argentina weeks before the Falklands invasion led by British-built and designed vessels.

Your thoughtful leader on Indonesia (23 July), questioning whether the military establishment there will continue to enable democracy to write that new chapter, might have mentioned that this summer they will receive three Govan-built warships.
Robert Straughton
Ulverston, Cumbria

Oliver Bullough (Comment, 21 July) and Angus Roxburgh (Comment, 22 July) are right. We have a responsibility to assist, not just to condemn. Thinking about the problems in Ukraine from Northern Ireland suggests some ideas. Both eastern Ukraine and Northern Ireland are ethnic frontier zones in which people with two distinct identities and allegiances have to live together. After 50 years of fighting about rival claims to sovereignty over Northern Ireland, the British and Irish governments finally realised that it was better to recognise realities and negotiate a kind of shared status in which as an individual you could be British or Irish or both and in which power-sharing in regional government was required. And as in Northern Ireland the politics of the latest atrocity – Canary Wharf or MH17 – can get in the way of progress.

The Northern Ireland settlement is widely touted around the world as a way of dealing with divided identities and allegiances. Is it not time in Ukraine for a similar acceptance of realities – dual Ukrainian and Russian citizenship for those who want it, negotiation of some kind of power-sharing regional government between the competing factions and recognition of a legitimate Russian interest in looking after Russian communities there?

The British government should be sharing its experience in these matters with others in the European Union. We should all be looking for ways to talk politics with the “terrorists” rather than imposing sanctions on Russia and supporting a military campaign to restore absolute Ukrainian sovereignty.
Tom Hadden
Emeritus professor of law, Queen’s University Belfast

How about denying Russian oligarchs’ children access to our charitable institutions such as public schools?
Martin Jeeves

Owen Jones’s sensitive article (How the occupation of Gaza corrupts the occupier, 21 July) is most welcome. There has been a huge disparity over the past few days in the coverage given to the bombardment of Gaza and the Ukrainian disaster. In the papers I have been able to read, the ratio of column inches has been about 4:1 in favour of the Ukrainian story.

Both situations are equally devastating for those involved. Could the reason for the disparity, therefore, lie principally in the fact that the western nations, and especially the US, see it as in their interest to prevent public concern over events in Gaza from reaching a point where they might be forced to put pressure on Israel, whereas arousing popular feeling over the tragedy of MH17 can be seen as an excellent means, literally dropping out of the sky, of putting pressure on Russia?

How far and in what ways the media follow, or generate spontaneously, the kind of agenda set out above is an interesting question, but it is good to see the Guardian bucking the trend with this article.
Catherine Hoskyns

• I was shocked and disappointed to see no mention of Gaza on your front page today (23 July). Israel is raining death and destruction on civilians daily, using appalling weapons, while world leaders stay stumm. The death toll rises daily. But then I saw that the Queen’s horse had failed a drugs test and I understood your priorities.
Charlotte Eatwell

• We are concerned at the very partial nature of BBC reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While some reporters have shown great bravery in war zones, much home-based journalism lacks context and is unable to report the Palestinian perspective. The attacks on Gaza are presented by Israel and the BBC as being directed at militants, while for Palestinians they are an extension of military rule and collective punishment by a brutal apartheid state.

This inability to report the reality of the Israeli occupation has been repeatedly shown by academic studies and reports, including that led by Quentin Thomas, commissioned by the BBC, which noted the “failure to convey adequately the disparity in the Israeli and Palestinian experience, reflecting the fact that one side is in control and the other lives under occupation”, and said: “In short, we found that BBC output does not consistently give a full and fair account of the conflict.” (Thomas, 2006: 4-7) The BBC has failed to act on any of these findings.

The search for peace is not well served by giving the public such a partial and limited view. We ask now that the BBC produce a televised, public debate to discuss how to redress the deficiencies in its coverage to offer a better account of the sources of this conflict and therefore how it might be resolved.
Professor Greg Philo, Professor Avi Shlaim, Professor James Curran, Professor Natalie Fenton, Professor Julian Petley, Professor Ilan Pappe, Professor John Dugard, Professor Etienne Balibar, Professor Graham Murdoch, Professor Alan Riach, John McDonnell MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Christine Grahame MSP, Juliet Stevenson, Roger Waters, Alice Walker, Breyten Breytenbach, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, John Pilger, Mairead Maguire, Bella Freud, Frank Barat, Mustapha Barghouti, Gerda Stevenson, Pam Parsons, Mike Berry, Aimee Shalan, Hugh Lanning, Shamiul Joarder, Diana Buttu, Linda Ramsden, Jeff Halper, Hatim Kanaaneh, Karma Nabulsi, Paul Laverty, Gilbert Achcar, John Hilary

• Karl Sabbagh is absolutely right to say: “If the British had bombed and mortared houses in Catholic districts of Northern Ireland … and tried to justify it on the basis that it was trying to stop IRA terrorism, there would have been an outcry” (Letters, 23 July). But the analogy is a false one. Sinn Féin was not firing rockets daily at the civilian population of the UK in the way Hamas has been doing intermittently but all too frequently to Israel ever since Israel withdrew from Gaza.
Jeremy Beecham
Labour, House of Lords

Philip Inman (Weighing down our children with our debts, 21 July) reports on the ticking time bomb that is the debt our country is carrying. We helped almost 1 million people last year to tackle their debts and we work with a range of sectors to improve the experience of those in debt. We find that people almost invariably want to pay back what they owe and build financial resilience in the process – but they have fewer choices of late, as wages stay largely flat and prices continue to rise. This puts the onus on creditors – be they local authorities chasing council-tax debts or energy companies dealing with household arrears – to make it as straightforward as possible to get back on an even keel. As interest rates rise, forbearance and flexibility must be the name of the game if we are to keep people in their homes and active, successful members of society.
Joanna Elson
Chief executive, Money Advice

• Having called for a cap on the cost of credit for the last five years, Citizens UK welcomes the proposal of the Financial Conduct Authority to limit the damage that payday lenders can do (Report, 16 July). Yet we know there is still much work to be done. The 0.8% a day cap would take just £1 off the industry average loan price and the failure to cap the number of loans someone can take means that many will still be trapped in a spiral of using credit to pay off credit.

If the FCA were really serious on clamping down on exploitative lending it would do three things. First, it would set the caps at a level that had a real impact on the price of a payday loan. Second, it would clamp down on the scourge of multiple loans through a real-time database – already suggested by debt advice charity StepChange and others. And finally it would support the Citizens UK proposal to use the fines it collects from payday lenders and banks to endow a community finance fund in order to support more ethical businesses such as credit unions.
David Barclay
Organiser, Citizens UK  

Sadly the proposed reforms of the benefits system laid out in the Oakley sanctions review (Benefit sanctions hit most vulnerable people the hardest, report says, 22 July) cannot solve the underlying problem the report reveals: that the welfare state is being managed without any sense of humanity for those who need its support. If care and compassion was at the heart of our welfare system, claimants would not be sent letters informing them they were being sanctioned without explanation or asked them to complete meaningless and demeaning tasks for no reason. Putting in place procedures to ensure that letters are thoroughly proof-read can only paper over the cracks if the entire rationale and motivation behind the operation of the welfare state is about hitting sanctions targets. We need a completely new approach to welfare – one that prioritises the wellbeing and interests of the very people it is there to support.
Natalie Bennett
Leader, Green party of England and Wales

Before the new season begins and we forget what happened in Brazil, maybe it’s time to have a look at the English game. It is now nearly half a century since England won the World Cup (England will not bid for World Cup until Fifa reforms – Dyke, 23 July). There are no plans to change the structure of football in England, as did Germany 10 years ago, when they lost badly. Instead of a national team we’ve got the Premier League. It’s a lousy bargain.

Only five clubs have ever won the Premier League. Apart from a top few teams each year, the others are just punchbag sparring partners, doomed to lose except when they play each other – and always on the edge of bankruptcy. The Premier League says it is the world’s top competition. In terms of the money it generates, much of it from the fans and most of it going outside the sport and the country, it is the tops. In terms of quality football, it isn’t. A Premier League team has won the top European competition only four times in the 21 years since the league was formed. Premier League matches are usually – apart from the hype – dull. What we saw in the World Cup was a different game.

The top European players, including Gareth Bale, do not play in the Premier League. All but a few of the foreign players in the Premier League are second-rate yet paid enormous salaries. Many are in their late twenties and starting to coast. To call the Premier League “English” may be an offence under the Trade Descriptions Act. The only way to win the league is to get a sugar daddy from abroad to buy your club, a manager and most of “your” team, all from abroad. (Last season only 25% of the players in the Premier League were qualified to play for England.) We’ll never win the World Cup again and we’ll only rarely win in Europe. Who are the winners in our national game?
Geoff Scargill
Stockport, Cheshire

I was somewhat bemused to read that Philip Clarke of Tesco was paying the price for failing to halt a slide in sales and profits at Tesco (Forty years of service end abruptly for boss after profits slide, 22 July). If leaving with a possible £10m in cash and shares is “paying the price” for failure, is it any wonder that customers have no sympathy on hearing of Tesco’s woes over the past few years? I doubt if Mr Clarke will be filling his trolley with value items for some considerable time.
Andrew Langstone
Solihull, West Midlands

• When publishing an article entitled “Of all the pianos … Casablanca prop for sale” (23 July), would it not have been appropriate to mention the black pianist, Dooley Wilson, shown in the forefront of the photo, who was the actual player of the piano in question, as well as the two white leading actors, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman?
Michael Meadowcroft

• Following Jo Tomalin’s letter (22 July) concerning cleaners’ pay: here in Lewes, careworkers in our residential dementia unit earn a mere £6.12 an hour for a 12-hour shift and a far more demanding job than cleaning and ironing.
Dee O’Connell
Lewes, East Sussex

• A further omission from your James Garner obituary (21 July) was his love of motor sport exemplified by his starring role in John Frankenheimer’s 1966 film, Grand Prix, recently on the BBC and arguably the best motor-racing based film of all time. That and the fact that in the US he ran his own racing team.
Peter Collins
Bromley, Kent

• When I was a kid, our version of Bulwer-Lytton’s line was potentially everlasting (In praise of … 21 July): “It was a dark and stormy night, and the captain said to his mate: ‘tell me a story.’ So the mate said: ‘It was a stormy night’ and …”
Gill Emberson

• First labia, then sixty-nine (yes, in that sense), now (solution, 19 July) shrubbery (with “rubber” clued as “Johnny”): is it time to move the crossword to page three?
David McAvoy


Next time we ask why young people from this country and other western societies rush off to the Middle East to become blood-hungry jihadists, just think back to these days in Gaza. Think about the silence and hypocrisy of western leaders.

Think of David Cameron sticking out his chest at Putin because of the butchery in the skies over Ukraine, but turning a blind eye to the butchery in Gaza at the hands of the Israelis. Of course he says Israel should exercise restraint. Isn’t it time he told them and us if he feels they actually have exercised restraint?

It’s time for politicians here and in America and other countries to wake up and smell the corpses of the innocent dead in Gaza. And next time Cameron wants to lead the charge to supply arms to groups elsewhere in the world involved in civil wars, he should just stop and think again about that butchery over Ukraine, and how that came to be.

Jill Dobbs, London SE16


Benjamin Netanyahu’s action is doomed to fail in the long term, as all it will do is radicalise a new generation of Palestinians. There is genuine concern among Israelis for their security, but the present action will only perpetuate the existing antipathy between the two communities, each of which secretly believes the only solution is the complete obliteration of the other.

It is time for both sides to accept that to get anything you must give something, and each offer the other an opportunity for peace and security.

Keith B Watts, Wolverhampton


While the UK, US and European governments worry about 500 western Muslims who are learning jihad in Syria and Iraq, we in Israel are living daily with a terror organisation whose charters call for our destruction.

The death toll in Gaza is to be laid at the door of Hamas. They do not want peace. We left Gaza in 2005 hoping that the Palestinians would “get on with it”. The only thing they got on with was making rockets to kill Israeli civilians.

We have made a cold peace with Egypt and Jordan, but the Palestinians have refused every offer. They are not prepared to compromise and their demands are such that even Israel’s left-wing parties, who would dismantle most of the settlements, could not agree to them. Israelis want peace and are prepared to compromise, but we are not prepared to commit suicide.

Henry Tobias, Maale Adumim, Israel


Can it be just over a week since Israel accepted the peace plan to end their attack on Gaza if Hamas stopped showering rockets on them? How quickly do memories fade!

The problem is that if a lasting ceasefire could be made to happen, Hamas would have no reason to exist, as it requires a permanent state of war.

An end to hostilities would enable the big powers to force Israel to give up its ill-gotten territorial gains and pave the way to a viable Palestinian state. However, this means there being a permanent Israeli state, something Hamas will never accept. So the killing goes on.

Lyn Brooks, Ongar, Essex

Of all Israel’s attempts at justifying the slaughter perhaps the most threadbare is the accusation that Hamas is using civilians as “human shields”.

All of Gaza is one densely populated residential area, apart from some agricultural land. Should Hamas place military equipment in the open fields for the convenience of Israeli planes bombing from a great height?

Hilary Wise, London W5


Does Prime Minister Netanyahu imagine that the long-term security of Jews in the Holy Land is best assured by bombing Palestinians in Gaza and dispossessing them in the West Bank?

Brian Beeley, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

I am not usually a reader of your newspaper, but I bought it today (21 July) because it was the only one on the shelves that showed on its front page the horror of Gaza. Thank you for your coverage. There seems to be such a big silence, when there should be outcry, especially from heads of state.

Eve Mountain, Waterlooville, Hampshire


Health and safety and a childhood denied

Frank Furedi (The Big Read, 22 July) rightly bemoans the appalling continuing erosion of liberty for children.

Here in Marlborough with our partners of 32 years in the Muslim fishing community of Gunjur in The Gambia, we are witnessing an extraordinary paradox. Since 1985 we have sent groups of 17- and 18-year-olds to live with families in that community, to get involved in construction projects with young Gambians as a means to learning about a different culture and a sense of community which is second to nothing that you could find in the UK. It’s a programme of which we are hugely proud, and grateful to our partners, and which has influenced many young lives.

But now risk assessments and health and safety are uppermost in our preparation, to the extent that hard hats and protective clothing should be worn, and no young person must swim in the glorious sea off The Gambia’s beaches. The cost to our small charitable organisation of insurance cover for these trips is rising, and the whole programme is put at risk.

All the while children in Gunjur play freely and at ease in the secure environment of their own and neighbouring large family compounds with no traffic, cared for by the village and the extended family as well as their individual parents.

We run the risk that our children will never grow up as independent beings with an understanding of boundaries, because they have never been allowed to take a risk. Where is the forum in which we can have a proper debate, recognising that at the moment the insurance companies, and that part of the legal profession encouraging us to obtain compensation, are laughing all the way to the bank?

Dr Nick Maurice, Director, Marlborough Brandt Group, Marlborough, Wiltshire


It’s not just the children. My son-in-law recently took part in the parents’ race on school sports day. The previous week, a similar race, run round a field, resulted in a parent falling and dislocating his collarbone.

For the race in question to take place at all, therefore, it was deemed necessary by the head that participants would run with beanbags on their heads to reduce speed, even though the athletics track of the local independent school was being used.

My son-in-law was not amused.

Lavinia Martins, Kingston Blount, Oxfordshire


Baffled by ‘efficient’ heating system

I’m a Brit living in America (since 1998), and recently returned to England to visit my parents for the summer vacation. I was equally amused and disturbed since my last visit to see that a Hive Home rep from British Gas had visited my parents and installed a new smart thermostat system.

I asked my 79-year-old mother (my father is blind and disabled) how the system works. She said: “I don’t know, but I have the installer’s phone number.”

On reading through the user guide, I found that the “smart” system can be controlled through a computer (which my mother can’t use), or an iPhone app (my mother doesn’t have an iphone), or through a digital display control panel installed in the living room.

I asked my mother what system she’d like. She said: “I like the old system with an on/off switch in the kitchen.”

I asked my mother what the installation technician said when he came to install it. She said that he said the smart system would be “more efficient”.

How is this for efficiency? When my mother needs to change the hot water schedule, she calls me in New York, and I make the changes on my iPhone, in New York. Another case of design-led innovation that fails to ask the simple question “What does the customer want?”

Mark Crowther, New York


Fallible Pope?

The head of the Catholic Church, having recently visited the Holy Land, believes he can help to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, an intractable problem of the past 100 years or so. He would also like to end the schism between his own church and the Eastern Orthodox, something no predecessor for over a millennium has been able to achieve. Does this represent the triumph of Pope over experience?

Tim Hudson, Chichester, West Sussex


Values doomed to disappear

The new Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, is threatening to strike off teachers who do not protect “British values”. If Scotland does achieve independence, I assume that we will then be protecting only English, Welsh and Northern Irish values. I look forward to seeing the Department’s document explaining this when the time comes.

Charles Freeman, Brandeston, Suffolk


Is the concept of human rights now “corrupted”? Lost amid competing jurisdictions?

Sir, The UK is alone in Europe in having no codified constitution limiting the powers of the government in Parliament.

Dominic Grieve and Ken Clarke have stood for the rule of law and have been removed from office. There are threats to remove or weaken the powers of the European Court of Human Rights in British cases, and to tear up the Human Rights Act. The protection of individual rights is under threat as never before, setting a bad example to tyrannies everywhere.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill, QC
House of Lords

Sir, Melanie Phillips is correct (Opinion 22 July): the concept of “rights” has become corrupted.

The source of man’s rights is not arbitrary law or even divine law, but the law of identity. A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental human right, (all others flow from it): a man’s right to his own life.

However, the concept of “right” pertains only to freedom of action and is held as a barrier not from the collective, nor for the collective, but against the collective. Man has the right to live but not the right to take the life of another. He has the right to be free, but not the right to enslave another. He has the right to choose his own happiness, but no right to decide that his happiness lies in the misery, enslavement, robbery or murder of another.

DSA Murray
Dorking, Surrey

Sir, Melanie Phillips is broadly right. A British Bill of Rights would need to be enacted repealing the Human Rights Act 1998 and to bypass the European Charter “notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972”. It is not only Strasbourg, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act which are at issue.

Now, there is a new dimension – the Charter of Fundamental Rights under Lisbon. Tony Blair asserted, wrongly, that “it is absolutely clear that we have an opt-out” from the charter. The European Scrutiny Committee, which I chair, found that the only effective way to exclude the charter is to amend the 1972 act by primary legislation.

I do not, however, agree that a parliamentary act cannot override an international treaty. Parliament retains its ultimate supremacy but must assert it or it will die on the vine. My committee’s unanimous November report points the way to unilateral repeal of EU legislation at Westminster where it is in our vital national interest — and the reassertion of our national veto. The government’s response to that report, published today, is to stick its head in the sand as the EU legislative tide sweeps in like a tsunami.

Sir William Cash, MP
House of Commons

Sir, Melanie Phillips’ assertion that the European Convention on Human Rights “actually has nothing to do with the EU” needs clarification.

Accession to the convention is one of the conditions (listed among the 1993 Copenhagen criteria) for entry into the European Union.

The accession of the EU, as an entity, to the convention became a legal obligation under the Treaty of Lisbon. Official talks on the EU’s accession have been under way since 2010.

Dr John Doherty

He sent his dog after a wounded pheasant. She came back with a surprise …

Sir, That great Somerset countryman, Philip Fussell, was shooting at Molland in Devon, when he sent his dog to retrieve a wounded pheasant which had landed in the river. Some considerable time passed, before the dog returned — to much applause — with a salmon in her mouth.

Rupert Godfrey

Stert, Wilts

Learning to stand up to bullies and playing games of concentration – good preparation for civilian life

Sir, I too was at Eaton Hall OCS in 1957 (Terry Miller’s letter, July 22). We all remember the formidable RSM, “Paddy” Lynch of the Irish Guards, putting his stamp on ridiculously young National Service officer cadets. Although at least 6ft 6in tall, he stood on a table from which to survey the parade and pick up the slightest impropriety.

It was tremendous preparation for civilian life. Many at the Bar, even some silks, flinched before judges such as Melford Stevenson and Leslie Boreham, but after having a strip torn off by RSM Lynch those judges seemed almost tame.

Richard Daniel

London NW7

Sir, Jane Rowe (letter, July 23) seems to claim the wonderful board game uckers for the Royal Navy. When I was an army helicopter pilot in the 1960s uckers was almost an addiction among pilots and ground-crews. I have played it in army crew-rooms in the UK, Germany, Aden, Libya and Hong Kong. In the army the rules did not vary, but Jane Rowe is right about one thing: concentration and basic mathematical skills were the essential attributes of a winner. Strangely, I have never come across the game in civilian life.

Robin Rhoderick-Jones

Dulford, Devon

Sir, Charles McLay (July 23) did not give the full Edinburgh greeting, which, hospitably, is: “You’ll have had your tea, but come in and have something stronger.”

Professor Craig Sharp


Junior doctor describes a typically harrowing night shift and wonders how the NHS can go to a seven-day week

Sir, It is 4am, and I am a junior doctor writing from a weekend night shift at a respected teaching hospital. I have run arrest calls, treated life-threatening bleeding and sepsis, held the hand of a young woman dying with breast cancer, tried to comfort her family, scuttled down miles of dim corridors, occasionally wanted to sob with exhaustion, forgotten to eat, forgotten to drink, drawn on every fibre of strength I possess to keep dispensing compassion, kindness and, above all, good medicine to my patients this never-ending night.

And right now, huddled over Diet Coke and a laptop, I am struck by the utter absurdity of the fantasy politics played by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, government and opposition alike that a seven-day NHS is possible without a 29 per cent increase in funding.

Do they really not know how desperately thinly we are stretched? I don’t think so. The maths is simple. Pretending that the NHS can provide a seven-day weekday service without funding it isn’t just disingenuous, it is downright dangerous for patients.

Dr Rachel Clarke

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust

The interminable conflict which seems to defy any quest for any kind of peace

Sir, Apropos Lt Col Symonds’ letter (July 22), Abba Eban said of the 1967 war: “This must be the first time in history that, on the morrow of the war, the victors sued for peace and the vanquished demanded total victory.” Israel is still suing for peace — and is still waiting for a response. The only answer it ever gets is more rockets aimed at civilians.

Brian Goldfarb

East Finchley, London

Sir, Lt Col Symonds forgets that after the Six-Day War Israel offered to negotiate with the Arabs with no preconditions, including withdrawal from the territories captured during the war, in exchange for a peace treaty. The response was met on September 1, 1967, by the three Nos at the Khartoum Arab League conference: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.”

Colin Green

Kingston, Surrey

Sir, It is not true that the root of this conflict is Israel’s defensive occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas exists to fulfil the original objective of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, founded in 1964 three years before Israel seized the so-called occupied territories, which was “to eliminate the State of Israel by means of armed struggle”.

Philip Duly

Haslemere, Surrey


Research by Heriot-Watt and York universities shows that benefit cuts have played a part in the rise of homelessness Photo: ALAMY

6:57AM BST 23 Jul 2014


SIR – Fraser Nelson argues that the Government’s welfare reforms have been vindicated because there hasn’t been a rise in homelessness despite warnings about the impact of benefits cuts.

Since the implementation of benefit cuts in 2011, official figures have shown increases in all forms of homelessness, including an 11 per cent increase in rough sleeping and a 21 per cent increase in those in temporary accommodation.

Independent analysis by Heriot-Watt and York universities identified benefit cuts as an important driver of rising homelessness, noting that cuts “weaken the safety net that provides a ‘buffer’ between a loss of income, or a persistently low income, and homelessness.”

Alison Garnham
Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group
London N1

Unreliable energy

SIR – Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, has declared an “urgent national need” for projects such as the Rampion wind farm.

Yet wind farms are hopelessly inefficient and unreliable. Fairly regularly, the total wind-power output of Britain falls to just a few tens of megawatts, which is effectively zero. This “subsidy farm” will destroy the environment, kill huge numbers of seabirds and wreck the beautiful sea views.

Christopher Wright
Findon, West Sussex

Earnest advice

SIR – Tim Walker is not quite right to say that nothing can be added or taken away from The Importance of Being Earnest.

Wilde pruned his original version to good effect. But some splendid lines were lost, as when Cecily informs Algernon that John Worthing has lunched on pâté de foie gras sandwiches and the 1889 champagne:

“1889? Are you sure?”

“O yes. It is on medical advice. Even the cheaper clarets are forbidden to him.”

David Damant
Bath, Somerset

A load of hot air

SIR – Why are those hot-air hand dryers so noisy? Bring back the paper towel.

Mike Haberfield
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

Bringing peace to Gaza

SIR – Surely it must be obvious that the random firing of rockets will never win a conflict, and is very likely to bring retribution. If Hamas would acknowledge this, peace could be achieved overnight and bring the suffering in Gaza to an end.

Martin Mears
East Ord, Northumberland

Rationing on the NHS

SIR – In order to save money, many Clinical Commissioning Groups, GP-led bodies that now control a large proportion of NHS spending, are restricting or rationing access of patients with certain complaints to hospital consultants. These complaints include hip and knee problems, cataract, hernias, carpal tunnel syndrome and even skin disorders. Such conditions vary between CCGs: some do not interfere with patient referral at all.

Another type of group, known as “musculoskeletal teams”, have been established in some areas between GPs and consultants. They boast of being a “one-stop shop”. This is not quite correct, but they did manage to prevent nine out of 10 patients seeing consultants, according to an article last year in the British Journal of General Practice.

Surely medical professionals must be enabled to treat patients to the best of their ability. Such NHS policies deny patients the treatment they rightfully expect. These interferences between doctors are unkind and, in my opinion, unethical.

Robert Simpson-White (FRCGP)
English Bicknor, Gloucestershire

SIR – I doubt that social media is the chief culprit in dissatisfaction with GPs.

At one visit to my GP, I was told that I should only raise one subject for treatment; if I had more, I should book a second appointment. Moreover, I had already had eight minutes in the surgery (mostly occupied with the GP looking up data on his computer) “and if I give you any more time I’ll have a riot on my hands”. Now the surgery offers five-minute appointments.

With such treatment from GPs, patients may well be driven to self-diagnose online, but the internet is not the cause of increasing complaints.

Alan Shaw
Halifax, West Yorkshire

SIR – Over the past week, I have suffered a pounding heart and acute breathlessness after even minor exertion.

When my wife attempted to make an appointment for me to get checked out by my local GP in a practice that has traditionally employed four doctors, she was informed that one doctor had recently left, one was off on long-term sickness, one was starting two weeks’ holiday that morning, and the remaining doctor was rather busy and could see me in 10 days’ time. Or I could try again in the morning to see if he had a vacant slot.

Should I (a) pester the practice in the hope of an earlier appointment; (b) visit the outpatient unit at the local hospital 25 miles away; (c) do nothing in the hope that it goes away; or (d) negotiate favourable terms with the local undertaker?

D R Tagg
Alford, Lincolnshire

Good news

SIR – I was delighted to learn that Evan Davis is to become the new presenter of Newsnight. Now I shall be able to listen to the Today programme again.

Richard Coulson
Maidstone, Kent

The wit has gone from cricket’s commentary box

SIR – There was a time when listening to cricket commentary was a joy. The likes of John Arlott and Brian Johnston reported on the game with style, insight and humour.

Now we must endure shift after shift of whinging ex-players as they compete to criticise every shot, ball and field placing.

Tony Smith
Braceby, Lincolnshire

SIR – Several things are beginning to annoy me with the televised Test cricket.

First, the personal habits of individual players leaves a lot to be desired – witness the close-ups of Alastair Cook picking his nose. In addition, several players from both sides have a disgusting habit of spitting. Then there is the overdone high fiving, hugging and general euphoria at every wicket fall. I find this “modern” approach repugnant and unsporting.

Jack Phillips
Dedham, Essex

SIR – At the latest Lord’s Test, the ground staff were brushing the pitch during breaks in play, rather than only between innings. Has the law been changed?

Wear and tear of the surface as the match proceeds gives the bowlers assistance – of which they get very little, now that pitches are protected from the weather.

Brian O’Gorman
Chichester, West Sussex

SIR – After a miserable day for English cricket at Lords, I wonder how many wives are telling their husbands to cheer up and accept that it is only a game?

Frank Dike
Bridport, Dorset

SIR – I suspect Jacky Maggs is one of many neighbours forced to suffer indulged and screaming children.

I intend to host a large and noisy garden party on the evening of Monday September 8, which Jacky is welcome to attend. Revenge is best served cold.

Neil Webster
Fulwood, Lancashire

SIR – I’d like to add football games to the list of unbearable neighbourly behaviour.

The noise is often horrendous and can go on for hours. They kick the ball over my fence, announce that it’s against the law for me to keep it, and then barge in to help themselves, telling me that I am not legally allowed to touch them.

Where are the laws protecting my right to enjoy my home in peace?

Sondra Halliday
Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire

SIR – How to respond to next-door neighbours who purchase a trampoline? Adopt naturism.

Charles Dobson
Burton-in-Kendal, Westmorland

SIR – “Europe must hit Russia hard with sanctions, says David Cameron”. Has he checked with his Lib Dem Energy Secretary?

The National Grid is supplied by 16 per cent coal, 23 per cent nuclear, 45 per cent gas, 3 per cent wind, and 13 per cent other (mostly imports from nuclear France). When Putin turns off the gas to Europe in retaliation, then what? Worse still, the Coalition has pledged to reduce the coal contribution and new nuclear power is not yet available, which leaves us with wind. Get the candles ready.

Dr A E Hanwell

SIR – Too many European countries are happy to shelter under the protection of Nato but are unwilling to pull their weight. It is surprising that the United States does not walk away and leave them to it.

Alec Ellis

SIR – Nato should accept the Ukrainian government’s invitation to hold a large exercise in the eastern part of the country still under its control. The exercise would move eastwards, while monitoring the logistical capacity of every member state’s forces to coordinate successfully (Letters, July 22). Assembly would be in one month, action in two, and the Russians should be assured that there was absolutely no intention to move outside the borders of the state that invited it.

Is it not time for hand-wringing and futile measures to give way to effective action against an increasingly arrogant power? The Prince of Wales’s unguarded remark was spot on: this is a case of the history of Thirties Europe repeating itself, and we need to get real.

Tony Jones
London SW7

SIR – One can feel nothing but sympathy for the relatives and friends of the passengers and crew killed in the Malaysian airliner MH17. One can also understand their frustration at the delay in identifying and repatriating the bodies of their loved ones. But as a forensic odontologist, I would caution that the identification process will be slow, as workers must be meticulous in every detail in order to ensure that the correct body is repatriated to the correct family.

Not all of the bodies have been retrieved from the widely dispersed crash site. Ante-mortem information has to be collected from relatives, and teams of forensic experts have to be deployed to wherever the identification process will take place.

James Hardy
Farnham, Surrey

SIR – Is it not incongruous that at the same time as bodies of our nationals are being returned from the crash site in Ukraine, we should be celebrating the height of Russian culture at Covent Garden next week? The performances should be cancelled.

Michael Siggs
Colchester, Essex

Irish Times:

Sir, – The one hope, however forlorn, of the terrible tragedy being played out in Gaza in these awful days is that the international powers, especially the USA and the EU, will ensure the removal of the conditions which are the root cause of the terrible situation there. This would simply involve granting the people of both Palestine and Gaza the right to have their own governments and to travel within and out of their territories by land, sea and air.

Of course Israel, like any country, has the right to control the traffic across its own borders, but it has none whatsoever to make Gaza the largest open air prison in the world, to have hundreds of checkpoints across the illegally occupied territories of Palestine and to prevent Gaza and Palestine having their own airports.

Repression in any society inevitably leads to extremism, usually referred to by the repressors as terrorism, as we have seen in our own country and elsewhere in the history of the world. Hamas may indeed be called a terrorist organisation in that its rockets undoubtedly cause terror in Israel , but by any measure of terrorism, its actions are more minor than those of the Israeli government.

There is no competition. The real terrorists in Palestine and Gaza are the Israeli Defence Forces, with Hamas, with its largely ineffective rockets, a far distant second. The responsibility for bringing about a permanent peace in Palestine clearly now belongs to the international political world and our own representatives in the European Parliament must promote the establishment of a complete boycott of all educational, social and business programmes with Israel until its government recognises the rights of the Palestinian people to have the same freedoms as their own people enjoy. Until this is achieved, the battles will continue. – Yours, etc,



University College,

Dublin 4

A chara, – Paddy Crean (Letters, July 23rd) suggests that “If Ireland wants to position itself as a peacemaker, it must first be careful not to be seen as taking sides”. What nonsense. Let me list just a few of the issues on which Mr Crean would have us take the safe middle ground: 600 Palestinians, including 121 children, killed in two weeks by Israeli shelling. According to the UN office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA), “there is literally no safe place (in Gaza) for civilians”, with 500 homes destroyed by Israeli air strikes and 100,000 Palestinians seeking shelter from the UN Relief and Works Agency.

The UN human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, suggests that the Israeli action “could amount to war crimes” – not to mention the endless land grab and stealing of natural water springs by Israeli settlers on the West Bank or the apartheid wall which, according to the International Court of Justice, is “contrary to international law”. The list goes on and on.

As for me, I’m taking sides. Boycott Israel and all things Israeli. – Is mise le meas,


Philipsburgh Avenue,

Dublin 3

Sir, – Imagine if after the London bombings Britain had bombed the Bogside, shelled Divis Flats and fired a tank shell at Altnagelvin Hospital. Would we call a resulting 500+ deaths mass murder? – Yours etc


Kincora Road,


Dublin 3

Sir, – Dublin City Council (DCC) is removing public litter bins and not replacing them. If logic underpins this policy, it must be that having fewer bins equals a lower cost involved in emptying them.

A case in point is the permanent removal of a public bin at the corner of Kincora Court and Conquer Hill Road in Clontarf over three months ago. Despite representations to local councillors of all persuasions, the bin has never been replaced. The bin outside Belgrove National School was also removed. I frequently walk 20 minutes carrying a bag of dog poo in St Anne’s Park to make use of the pitiful number of bins supplied in this 240-acre public amenity.

This morning I was gobsmacked and furious to see that DCC has the money and the gall to send out workers to put up signs urging us to “bin the poo”. Where? The environmental health officer in the waste management section who sent them out is clearly a person with no sense of irony.

With all the hoo-hah about Dublin losing €50 million through the Garth Brooks debacle, I would have thought that DCC might have the brains to understand that the most important element in attracting tourists is having clean streets. Research has also shown a link between dirty neighbourhoods and violence. This is yet another example of the famous Irish “lack of foresight” saga. – Yours, etc,


Kincora Court,

Dublin 3

Sir, – Early one morning last month I caught my first large wild trout locally. Since I was a boy I had wondered would I ever see fish thrive again in the the Tolka. I began teaching angling skills to my own kids on its banks last year and explain to them regularly how lucky we are to see trout thriving once again along “our” stretch of the river.

Yesterday’s large scale fish-kill (report by Olivia Kelly, July 23rd) is devastating. Measuring the impact on the fish stocks affected is easier done than measuring the impact on the community.

The Tolka will bounce back again given time and attention. Sadly, it might be too late by then to get some kids interested in angling and wildlife in their neighbourhood, rather than anti-social activities.

I hope those responsible are found and prosecuted without delay. In the meantime more general environmental awareness about the fragility of our rivers is required to prevent a recurrence. – Yours, etc,


Griffith Avenue,

Dublin 9

Sir, – For a brief moment I thought Revd Patrick Burke (Letters, July 23rd) was about to respond to Declan Kelly’s criticism of church indoctrination of children. Mr Kelly raised a serious point and it merits an answer. If Revd Burke is particularly sensitive where the Catholic Church is concerned, he should, of course, appreciate that the indoctrination of children is practised by all the long-established religions. – Yours, etc,


Philipsburgh Avenue,

Dublin 3

Sir, – Breda O’Brien (Opinion & Analysis, July 19th) and Declan Kelly (Letters, July 22nd) seem oblivious to the fact that everyone is actively programming their own mind. Whether this is done from websites, TV programmes, adverts, books, newspapers or magazines or from belief systems, each of us, as we mature, needs to challenge our belief systems and accept as fact that the Catholic Church are not the only ones who get it wrong. – Yours, etc,


Bullock Park,


Sir, – My wife and I returned on Saturday evening from a circular 300-mile tour of south Leinster and Munster by chartered train, ably organised by the Irish Railway Records Society and the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland. The itinerary was Dublin to Waterford via Carlow and Kilkenny and then across the rich Golden Vale via Carrrick-on-Suir, Clonmel, Cahir, Bansha, Mullinavat and Tipperary town to Limerick via Limerick junction. We returned to Dublin via Ballybrophy, approaching Dublin Connolly through the little used Phoenix Park tunnel.

In the Golden Vale we traversed Victorian bow-string bridges and viaducts in cut blue limestone. We alighted at quaint Gothic stations built by the intrepid Carlow-born engineer and contractor William Dargan. We enjoyed delightful glimpses of semi-ruined Norman keeps and Cistercian monasteries, the magnificent Cahir castle and Gothic revival churches designed by John Semple. As we travelled sedately through the vale the afternoon sun lit up the Comeraghs, Knockmealdowns, Galtees, and Slievenaman mountains and the large herds of cattle grazing in rich pasturelands. A memorable and stress-free day to gladden the heart.

Sadly it is feared that the Waterford through to Limerick Junction section of this most scenic of Irish and European cross-country lines is threatened with imminent closure by an overly centralised administration. Surely the local communities and development agencies can be motivated to follow the example of their inspired counterparts on the western seaboard who have initiated the Wild Atlantic Way and the Great Western Greenway cycle experience.

There are many successful tourist-centred railways that can provide a model of good organisation and robust local engagement – the Scottish West Highland railway from Glasgow to Mallaig, the Forest of Dean railway in England and the popular summertime excursions from Anduze to Saint-Jean-du-Gard in the remote French Cévennes.

A “Golden Vale Railway Experience” involving expanded train services and stopovers at selected hotels and historic sites along the line, if imaginatively promoted and managed, could be the equal of any of the above and bring welcome benefits to a treasured but less known tourist destination. Are there interested individuals and organisations in the counties of the Golden Vale who might take up an exciting challenge ? – Yours, etc,


New Park Road,


Sir, – In the last few days The Irish Times has published articles by Breda O’Brien concerning the socialisation of children by the internet, and by Ronan O’Brien concerning the failure of John Redmond’s political aspirations. According to commentators in your Letters column, both are somehow the fault of the Catholic Church, as is also, we may assume, rain in July and the collapse of the Garth Brooks beano. May I take advantage of the same column to pass along my suspicions that the Presbyterians are secretly behind the recent spate of lollypop robberies conducted by seagulls on unsuspecting children, and which was brought to our attention by Senator Ned O’Sullivan?


Harmonstown Road,

Dublin 5

Sir, – On the Friday morning of July 11th I listened with pleasure to Diarmaid Ó Muirithe on RTÉ’s Thought for the Day expanding on the word “precious” and expressing his fear that it would ultimately disappear entirely except for its sacred use, as in “the most precious blood of the Saviour”.

Like a mediaeval craftsman he placed the word in its setting, examining its facets, colour and texture. Lucidly he argued his understanding of its uses and abuses. That evening I heard, with great sadness, of his sudden death in Vienna. Ó Muirithe’s contribution to our understanding of words, their derivation and local values, is a gem of great preciousness and one for which I, and I’m sure thousands of others, are profoundly grateful. It could truly be said of and for him: in principio erat verbum. – Yours, etc,



Co Longford

Sir, – As a daily commuter from Dublin to Newbridge I have a suggestion for the new Minister for Transport. Irish Rail has stated that in an era of severe financial constraints, it is unlikely that bicycle fares will be withdrawn. The current annual Dublin to Newbridge train fare is €2,100. With a bicycle it is an additional €3,132. As much as I would like to assist the Government in its efforts to make us a bike-friendly nation it would cost me €5,232 per annum. Therefore I drive.

I work in an office with more than 1,000 employees, a majority of whom commute by car. I personally know of 50 people who would like to “bike it to work”, but not at a cost of €5,232.

Why not axe the bike fee so we can get fit, reduce traffic, help the environment and create more revenue for Irish Rail? Irish Rail says it “can not take bikes at peak times due to space restriction”. It just so happens that it is at peak times that most people need to bike it to work. Would a simple one or two extra carriages be possible – no seats necessary? – Yours, etc,


Woodbrook Square,

Dublin 15

Sir, – It falls to me to apologise for letting Fintan O’Toole down. Like many Irish people I have been slack and undisciplined in front of the neighbours. I have tested and tasted too much of this world of luxury. I have drunk that second glass of Bulgarian merlot, lolled around watching the World Cup and wolfed down the last Rolo. In secular penitence I am now going to go west to the barren wastes of the Burren to live on locusts and wild honey. Come, Fintan and all frugal people, come dance with me in the Real Ireland. – Yours, etc,


The Paddocks Crescent,


Co Dublin

Sir, – Given that both Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar have ruled out the possibility of either party entering a government with Sinn Féin, and, given the two parties’ power-sharing strategy at local level, to the exclusion of Sinn Féin, would it be premature to give credit to Sinn Féin for bringing an end to civil war politics in this State? – Yours, etc,


Castle Farm,


Co Dublin

Irish Independent:

* I recently celebrated my 50th birthday with a party. Having heard from some friends about their reactions to their own half century milestones, it was with some trepidation that I approached the big day.

Over 40 people attended my celebration party. A number of others sent their apologies. It got me thinking of the nature of friendships. Who are our friends? Are friendships constant in life?

Looking back from my present vantage point, I can see I have no contact with the majority of people I grew up with, people I spent my formative years with.

It is a similar story with the majority of people I studied with in various third level institutions and worked with in various jobs.

Friends have come into my life, stayed for a while before we drifted apart, sometimes by mutual consent, other times the “separation” initiated by me or the other party.

Other friendships have remained more long-term in my life. Today I realise I have wonderful friends who would be there for me at the drop of a hat, if needed.

In life we come in contact with other people, each of them on their own particular path. Sometimes we can be touched in a special way by some of these people and that is wonderful when it happens.

It is sometimes in the nature of friendships that people come into our lives, leave their mark, then leave, like ships passing in the night.

Make the most of the now. Cherish your friends today. You never know what tomorrow holds.

And finally, be a friend to yourself.

We all enter this world on our own and leave in a similar fashion.




* What’s the difference between Croagh Patrick and Croke Park? This Sunday there will be 40,000 people at Croagh Patrick.




* I just felt that I had to write about what has happened in this country with Garth Brooks. The country is on its knees, crying out for work and our young are leaving. This was an opportunity for over €50m in revenue, not to mention extra work for those who cannot find full-time employment.

I am not a Garth Brooks fan, but I could see the city’s shops were packed on the days of the One Direction concerts. It was like Christmas Eve. How could they let an opportunity like this go?




* I feel powerless witnessing the genocide of the people of Gaza. Is my inaction or powerlessness that far removed from those who knew what was going on in the concentration camps dotted all over Europe less than a century ago?

They defended their inaction with the excuse of being powerless to act. I cannot allow myself to be in that number.

In a democracy our elected representatives have a responsibility to act. I want them to demand the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to Ireland.

I ask them to demand the highest sanction possible on Israel. I seek them to use the full weight of their political voice to demand a cessation of this genocide. I am not hopeful. Sure aren’t they on their ‘holliers’.




* I am shocked that so many children are being killed in Gaza. My two-year-old boy shared my bed recently. In the morning, as I held my boy, I was touched by sadness knowing that some parents in Gaza would lose their children before the day was out.

Today I decided to read the ‘New York Times‘ and ‘The Washington Post‘ to see if they were biased. Their articles left me deeply disappointed. The biggest news from their perspective was a missing Israeli soldier, a rocket landing near Tel Aviv airport and flights being cancelled for a day.




* My wife and I returned on Saturday evening from a circular 300 mile itinerary of south Leinster and Munster by chartered train, ably organised by the Irish Railway Records Society and the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland.

Our journey along the quiet, rural railways in the Golden Vale traversed Victorian bow-string bridges and viaducts in cut blue limestone. We alighted at quaint stations built in the “gas-pipe Gothic style” beloved by the intrepid Carlow-born engineer and contractor William Dargan.

We enjoyed delightful glimpses of semi-ruined Norman keeps and Cistercian monasteries, the magnificent Cahir Castle, and iconic Gothic revival churches designed by John Semple.

Sadly it is feared that the Waterford through to Limerick Junction section of this most scenic of Irish and European cross-country lines is threatened with imminent closure by an overly centralised administration.

Surely the local communities and development agencies can be motivated to follow the example of their inspired counterparts on the western seaboard, who have initiated the Wild Atlantic Way and the Great Western Greenway cycle experience.

A Golden Vale Railway Experience, involving expanded train services and stopovers at selected hotels and historic sites along the line, could be the equal of any of the above and bring welcome benefits to a treasured but lesser known tourist destination.

Are there interested individuals and organisations in the counties of the Golden Vale who might take up an exciting challenge ?




* I have to commend two articles written by your motor correspondent Eddie Cunningham (Irish Independent, July 23).

‘Disabled Parking – Five things to think about before stealing a slot’ was excellent. This crime happens every day and affects so many people, not only in Ireland but across the world.

‘Chilling prediction: how many will die on roads’ was also excellent. I congratulate you on printing such an article and hope it saves many lives.




* Cal Hyland (Irish Independent, July 23) believes Christians are now “moving towards the message of Christ through ecumenism” while Jews and Muslims are “still in the mire”, believing in a vengeful, unforgiving and self-righteous God.

Would Mr Hyland also include those Christians living in Northern Ireland and Glasgow; and, according to the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity, the other 30,000 different schisms within Christianity?



Irish Independent


July 23, 2014

23 July 2014 Books

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A very dry day

Scrabble Mary wins, but gets under 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.


The Very Reverend Dom Philip Jebb – obituary

Dom Philip Jebb was a charismatic headmaster of Downside who took a firm line with schoolboy revolutionaries

Dom Philip Jebb

Dom Philip Jebb

6:02PM BST 22 Jul 2014


Dom Philip Jebb, who has died aged 81, was a charismatic headmaster of Downside School during the 1980s, when the spirit of student rebellion ran strong and the school threatened to become ungovernable.

Many boys at Downside no longer went regularly to Mass; their hair grew down their shoulders; they jibbed at school uniform, smoked in their bedrooms and smouldered at any rules they considered oppressive. The introduction of a school council with pupil representatives did little to ease tension.

When Jebb took over in 1980, after serving as deputy head, there was an immediate tightening of the rules and an inevitable reaction. Several hundred pyjama-clad boys held a noisy late-night protest in the quad, bawling abuse and ringing the school bell. But the demonstration lasted only 10 minutes. There had always been rumbles of protests about a new head, Jebb told the press, adding that there would be no retribution.

Downside Abbey and School (ALAMY)

But he showed an iron resolve when some boys, returning from lunch on a day out, borrowed a digger they found on the side of road. It was a time of fear about IRA terrorists, and one of the boys — the son of a well-known actor — put on a thick Irish brogue when the police drove up. Arriving back at school in a squad car, he and his companions found the headmaster drumming his fingers on the arms of the throne in the hall, waiting to dish out a fearsome dressing-down.

Jebb ended a four-year experiment with girl pupils, saying that unmarried monks were unsuited to coping with their problems. When Labour made undefined threats against private schools, he warned that the Downside community could return to the Continent, where it had spent almost 200 years before being driven out by the French Revolution.

Anthony Jebb, as he was baptised, was born in Staffordshire on August 14 1932, the son of a prep school master who took his wife and four children to live with his father-in-law, the writer Hilaire Belloc, in Sussex. The boy was close to his grandfather, who was frail, gruff and frequently grumpy. On one occasion Belloc shouted from his bedroom that he could not move, which brought in the family to discover that he had inserted both feet into one trouser leg. Nevertheless he could still demonstrate a remarkable store of knowledge, and his grandson developed a fascination with the past, to the extent that he longed to be a venerable old man.

In 1940 the rural peace of Sussex was disturbed by the Battle of Britain being fought overhead. While his father made Molotov cocktails to greet the expected German invaders, Ant scoured the night skies with a telescope and found a severed hand beside a crashed German bomber. On being sent to Downside, aged 10, he arrived at Bath station just after it had been obliterated by a raid, and in his first year at the school he found himself just yards from a cricket pavilion when a training aircraft crashed nearby, killing nine boys. The incident haunted him ever after, but he retained a high-spirited thirst for new experience, once volunteering to box against a larger boy in the hope of experiencing being knocked out.

On entering the monastery at 18, Ant took the religious name Philip (that of his older brother, an architect), and plunged into the discovery of prayer, ranging from delirious joy to black depression.“This is marvellous,” an older monk told him. “I wish I were with you in this.”

After ordination Jebb taught at Worth Priory for a year, then read Classics at Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he was an enthusiastic archaeologist and as a good club fencer, became a member of “The Cambridge Cutthroats” fencing team, whose team outfit featured a black motorcycle jacket.

Jebb (right) executing a horizontal fleche against the future Olympian Richard Cohen

On returning to Downside he had hopes of a scholarly career, and edited Missale de Lesnes, a medieval manuscript published by the Henry Bradshaw Society; but he found that intense study brought on severe migraines. Instead, he took on a local parish, taught Classics and RE in the school, and ran the fencing club, which was to produce the Olympic champion Richard Cohen.

Soon appointed a housemaster, he had a brush with the spirit world when two boys playing with an Ouija board late at night suddenly felt an atmosphere of evil. When they woke him he first thought they were joking, but on learning that they were not, he burst into the room shouting: “In the name of God begone!” From then on the boys involved would not go to bed without a special blessing every night, and a crucifix was placed on the wall of the room.

On stepping down as headmaster in 1991, Jebb was disappointed not to be chosen as abbot; but he made a wise deputy as prior, was the annalist for the English Benedictine Congregation and played a key role in organising the new monastic library, including a wide-ranging collection of postcards. “Never throw anything away,” he would say. “Even laundry bills might be interesting one day.”

In addition he was a chaplain to the Order of Malta, which took pupils to tend the sick at Lourdes, and an assistant chaplain to Shepton Mallet military prison. He was much in demand as a profound and witty preacher.

Though a reluctant author, Jebb wrote and contributed to works on education, widowhood and grieving, and spent many hours on the phone talking to the sorrowful and the bereaved.

Delighted to be appointed Cathedral Prior of Bath, a titular office going back to the pre-Reformation Church, Jebb liked to tell new monks on retreat that they were joining the most marvellous group of men since the Twelve Apostles.

Dom Philip Jebb, born August 14 1932, died June 8 2014


A member of the Palestinian Selam family of Khan Yunis, Gaza, is rescued from under the wreckage of their house, which was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge on 21 July 2014. One person from the Selam family was killed and eight were wounded. Photo: Belal Khaled/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

It is a sad reflection on the parlous state of the domestic opposition that a spokesman for the Israeli Labor party can conceive of criticism of overwhelming force in self-defence only as a demand for more dead Israelis (A thirst for Israeli blood, 21 July). By Hilik Bar’s logic, there is no limit to the number of Palestinian women and children who may have to die or suffer horrible injuries in pursuit of an objective that is unachievable by military means. The thought that proportionality might involve a reduction in Palestinian fatalities never occurs to him. In addition to this shocking lack of empathy, his blinkered “context” only reaches as far as the current round of rocket attacks, while completely ignoring the consequences of a 47-year occupation. Now that Ed Miliband has joined those publicly critical of the land invasion of Gaza, which has added greatly to the toll of death and destruction, Hilik Bar would do well to recognise that patience with an untenable status quo, even of erstwhile sympathisers, is beginning to run out.
Dr Anthony Isaacs

•  The shooting down of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine (Report, 22 July) appeared for a while to have distracted world attention from the potentially greater tragedy unfolding in Gaza. There is a connection between the two events. Hamas is firing rockets indiscriminately at Israel‘s population centres, including its international airport. If just one of those missiles were to strike an aircraft, innocent passengers from all over the world, not just Israelis, would become victims of Hamas’s lethal war against Israel. The international community has a responsibility to help Israel and other governments put a stop to the criminally irresponsible firing of missiles at inadmissible targets – including civil air space whether over Donetsk or Tel Aviv.
David Stone
Emeritus professor, University of Glasgow

•  It is, to say the least, ironic that Hilik Bar imagines how the UK would react to rockets rained down by terrorists from the Isle of Man. He seems to have forgotten that a violent conflict lasting about 30 years raged in Northern Ireland with considerable extraterritorial assistance from within the territories of the Republic of Ireland and the United States. Mercifully, whatever mistakes and wrongs committed by the British government, there was nothing like the wanton overreaction to which the Israeli government has frequently resorted. The Republic of Ireland was not subject to air raids or temporary occupation. By contrast, this summer the murder of three young Israeli men has resulted in all-out war after the Israeli government resorted to brutal reprisals rather than restricting themselves to the routes of calm criminal investigation or international diplomacy. The point about proportionality is not that there should be matching death rates but rather that disproportionate escalation to extreme violence is self-defeating and will simply generate further similar violence in the future.
Felix Thompson
Duffield, Derbyshire

•  If the British had bombed and mortared houses in Catholic districts of Northern Ireland to kill hundreds of innocent supporters of Sinn Féin and their children, and tried to justify it on the basis that it was trying to stop IRA terrorism, there would have been a world outcry, not least from the US. But because Arabs have no constituency in the west, and people who criticise Israel are deemed to be antisemites, all we get is mealy-mouthed “on the one hand, on the other hand” editorial hand-wringing, even from the Guardian, whose writers are surely more aware of the iniquities of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians than more rightwing papers.

It is time for the world to unite against Israel, a rogue state whose actions in the Middle East over the past seven decades have caused suffering and injustice over a longer period than any other so-called democratic state.
Karl Sabbagh
Author, Palestine: A Personal History

•  While writing of the critics of Israel’s disproportionate response to the Hamas rockets, Hilik Bar could have instanced an example very close to home. In our struggle against Nazi Germany, the Germans bombed and damaged some of our major cities. We responded by totally devastating almost every one of theirs, causing hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties. This massive disproportionate response was supported overwhelmingly and enthusiastically by the British public. The only way to ensure there is no disproportionate response is not to attack in the first place.
Paul Miller

•  Hilik Bar, the subtext is not about proportionality of deaths but about the question of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut and its consequences.

Israelis do not have to die to gain sympathy. They simply have to question why the Palestinians’ democratically elected representatives are waging a concerted and murderous attack on the entire Israeli population, when they fire their rockets from a tiny patch of Palestinian land in Israel. Of course Israel has the right to defend itself; other countries deal with terrorism in more measured ways; Spain and Eta, the UK and the IRA. Neither country bombed the organisations because they were asking for change.

Israel needs to believe that their rights for existence will always be asserted by the UN, America and its allies. The Palestinians are merely asserting their rights before they are ground out of existence in their own country.
Anna Tognarelli
Marple, Greater Manchester

•  In 1948, aged 12 in Pretoria, I joined Habonim, a Zionist youth organisation modelled on the scouts. A year or so later, a Zionist speaker came to address us. He told us that the Zionist aim was a Jewish home covering the whole of Palestine and South Lebanon up to the Litani river and also Mount Hermon. “What about the people living there now?” I asked. They would leave, he replied, just as the Arabs had left Israel. Even the Boers hadn’t gone so far as to expel the Natives from South Africa, I said, and left Habonim. Seen in that light, Israeli policy of invasion and annexation has had a consistent flow, interrupted only by defeat by Hezbollah in South Lebanon. Hilik Bar’s description of a “thirst for Israeli blood” to outsiders looks much more like a thirst for Palestinian blood for the offence of being there at all. Israel could have a ceasefire by agreeing to lift its illegal blockade of Gaza. Do not those who suffer such aggression have a right to resist? Where is the line between resistance and terrorism?
Michael Sterne
Sarisbury Green, Hampshire

• Your leading article (A futile war, July 22) mentions the benefits of having the PLO back in charge of Gaza rather than Hamas, but it fails to point out that the opposite move is more likely. It was Israeli intransigence when the PLO was in control there earlier that created the formation of Hamas in 1987 as an outcome of Palestinian frustration with what was seen as the “moderation” of the PLO. Similarly today, if Hamas cannot deliver real progress towards a Palestinian state, it is likely to be superseded by even more extreme jihadis, probably associated with Hizbollah as in Lebanon. After all, every civilian death in Gaza is another catalyst for recruitment to the jihadi ranks.
Michael Meadowcroft

• Please allow me to ask a simple question: why has Hamas chosen to spend its energy and resources on building extensive tunnels to attack Israel rather than on bomb shelters for the Gazan population?
Russell Barash
Elstree, Hertfordshire

Tony Blair was in the fortunate position of being able to exercise individual empowerment and net himself £20m (Forget Labour’s old ideas, Blair tells party, 22 July). For most people this was not, and never will be, an option. For them collective action and a state committed to redressing the worst inequalities of the market remains the best hope of gaining some limited control over their lives, whether in wage rates, housing or health. This is surely the real lesson for the Labour party.
Michael Leigh

• Good to see that now Tony Blair has achieved all his objectives as Middle East peace envoy, he can turn his attention back to British politics.
David Gerrard
Hove, East Sussex

• Is it simply too optimistic to hope that David Cameron’s announcement on prosecuting parents who fail to protect their daughters from FGM (Report, 22 July) might lead to a recognition that all genital mutilation is unwelcome, regardless of gender? For if circumcision is not genital mutilation, what is it exactly? Am I missing something? (Besides, of course, my much lamented and unnecessarily removed circa 1954 foreskin.)
Dave Hepworth
Bakewell, Derbyshire

• Tom Clark reports (Rise and fall of the ideologue, 21 July) that Gove was fond of quoting Voltaire in French in cabinet meetings. I wondered if Candide was a favourite: “Dans ce pays-ci il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral, pour encourager les autres“?
Phil Ward
Holbeton, Devon

• Does Anne Roberts (Letters, 22 July) really think that if the Scots do vote for independence their politicians will be any different to those at Westminster?
Jim Waight

• Emo Williams fails to grasp the etymology of the name Edinburgh. The Edin bit was retained from the previous Brythonic Celtic name Din Eidyn. It pre-dates the post-Roman Germanic invasions of Britain and thus cannot have originated with the (very Germanic) name Edwin.
Sotirios Hatjoullis

Hilik Bar (A thirst for Israeli blood, 21 July) reduces the charge against Israel to killing too many Palestinians. The story is more complicated. The government of Israel, having provoked the firing of rockets by its rampage through the West Bank, is now using that response as the pretext for an overwhelming assault on Gaza. People are dying, and for what?

We are academics and intellectuals from round the world. We have been asked by colleagues in Gaza to urge Israeli academics to make their voices heard in Israel and abroad against what the Israeli government is inflicting on the Gaza population. More than 600 people have been killed in Gaza by the IDF. Most of these people are children, women and the elderly. The Gaza infrastructure, already in tatters, is now further undermined, and the population is in the worst situation imaginable, getting worse by the minute. These atrocities can only lead to further deterioration of the already dangerous situation.

We call on Israeli academics and intellectuals to join their voices in an open protest against these war crimes by the Israeli government. We urge them to answer the call of their Gazan colleagues and make their voices heard in opposition to the war crimes committed in their names. We are heartened that 65 of them have already come forward and signed the following statement:

“The signatories to this statement, all academics at Israeli universities, wish it to be known that they utterly deplore the aggressive military strategy being deployed by the Israeli government. The slaughter of large numbers of wholly innocent people is placing yet more barriers of blood in the way of the negotiated agreement which is the only alternative to the occupation and endless oppression of the Palestinian people. Israel must agree to an immediate ceasefire, and start negotiating in good faith for the end of the occupation and settlements, through a just peace agreement. Dissent in Israel now carries a high price.”

We are glad to stand in solidarity with them in taking this conscientious stand.
Etienne Balibar, Patrick Bateson, John Berger, Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, Richard Falk, Naomi Klein, Ahdaf Soeuif, Marina Warner, Haim Bresheeth, Jonathan Rosenhead
A full list of more than 1,200 signatories is at http://tinyurl.com/k9kogc5

• Since 2008 the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) has been supporting two new children’s libraries in the Gaza Strip. IBBY is an international organisation of people dedicated to children’s literacy and literature and to the promotion of international understanding through children’s books.

Last year, an IBBY delegation was able to visit Gaza for the first time. In Beit Hanoun the children spoke about hearing the drones overhead and of the people they knew who had been killed or injured in Israeli air strikes.

It is impossible to imagine what it is like for young people just to live from day to day in Gaza under such constant pressure. IBBY UK and the many writers and illustrators for young people, lecturers, teachers, librarians and storytellers who have signed this letter call on the British government to influence the government of Israel to cease its present assault and to lift its blockade of Gaza and its occupation of other Palestinian territory and to work in good faith towards a lasting peace in the region.
Pam Dix chair of IBBY UK, Anne Fine author and former children’s laureate, Michael Rosen author and former children’s laureate, Philip Pullman author, Jackie Kay, Debjani Chatterjee poet, Anne Marley librarian , Alan Gibbons author, Gillian Cross author, Bali Rai author, Beverley Naidoo author, Bernard Ashley author, Rina Vergano playwright, Candy Gourlay author, Elizabeth Laird author, Jane Ray illustrator Helen Cowcher illustrator, Jeremy Strong author, Matthew Kay filmmaker, Kerry Mason and Fen Coles Letterbox Library, Julia Jarman author, Linda Newbery author, Lynne Reid Banks author, Catherine Johnson author, Nicholas Tucker author, Piet Grobler illustrator and lecturer, Rose Impey author, Prodeepta Das photographer, Vivien French author, Sophie Hallam, Mary Hoffman author, Chris Stephenson, Carol Thompson illustrator, Pamela Lewis, Ferelith Hordon librarian and editor, Charles Forrest, Val Edgar author, Margaret Bateson-Hill author and storyteller, Rachel Johnson, Mary Green author, Margaret Chamberlain illustrator, Nicki Cornwell author, Evelyn Arizpe lecturer, Anne Harding librarian and lecturer, Ann Lazim librarian, Anna McQuinn author and publisher,Laura Cecil literary agent, Nicola Collins, Tricia Adams librarian, Pat Pinsent author and lecturer, Clive Barnes librarian, Lesley Delaney, Alexandra Strick book consultant, Rebecca Butler student, John Newman bookseller, Enid Stephenson, Eve Tandoi student, Jean Burke, Karen Argent teacher and lecturer, Nikki Marsh, Ollie Alden, Beth Cox book consultant, Sheila Ray librarian and lecturer, Shirley Hobson, Zoe Toft book consultant, Sarah Lawrence, Diana Kimpton author, Kay Waddilove, Anne Walker, Susan Bailes, Bridget Carrington, Sue Mansfield librarian, and Marion Brettle


Thanks, Guardian, for helping solve the riddle of why more houses are not built in spite of large numbers of people in housing need and houses fetching record prices (Tesco unlocks its landbank to build 4,000 homes, 19 July). (pPausing to query how it is that Tesco are so sure to get permission to build houses on land earmarked for retail development and whether the houses will actually be built and when, we refer to the Barker Review of Housing Supply interim report in 2003 where just seven named corporate housebuilders held landbanks of land surplus to their present or imminent requirement equivalent to 732,000 (unbuilt) new houses. Compare the total new house completions achieved in England in 2013 of 109,370.

Just one named corporate housebuilder, Wilson Bowden, whose annual output in 2002 was 4,164 houses, held a landbank sufficient to supply more than the whole national new house build, or 33 years’ supply of their own requirements at their then annual rate of build. Wimpey held 16 years’ supply and Persimmon 19 years’ supply. Barker explained landbanks: “housebuilders are primarily rewarded for obtaining valuable land rather than responding to consumer needs”, which, translated from Whitehallese, means that they make greater profit on the rise in value of undeveloped land than they do from building houses on it.

But it is not only housebuilders who block development by holding landbanks. Barker reported that Legal & General held a landbank equivalent to 79,000 housing units. Although it was unpermissioned land, Barker explained that a housebuilder might hope to have it included in a local development plan. Near Dorchester, in 1994 the Duchy of Cornwall was granted permission to build some 8,000 new houses on land that was formerly Poundbury farm and Middle farm. Twenty years later, many of the houses have yet to be built.

Now, added to housebuilders who won’t build and insurance companies (pension funds?) who don’t build, we have giant corporate retailers and traditional landowners – and who else? – withholding the only land earmarked for building houses. It is ironic that self-builders reported to the Office of Fair Trading Homebuilding (sic) Survey 2008 that finding land was their greatest perceived difficulty. The British housing market is broken. It’s not a game but real-life monopoly in which the landbankers always win.
James Armstrong
(Contributor to the Barker review and to the OFT Homebuilding Survey), Dorchester

Angus Roxburgh (Comment, 22 July) describes the “rebels” in eastern Ukraine as “drunken, gun-toting hotheads”. Some facts are in order. Ukraine’s democratically elected President Yanukovich was overthrown in a western-backed and largely fascist-led coup. In response the people of Donetsk and Luhansk, who had supported Yanukovich, held referendums for independence on 11 May. With turnouts of 75% in both Donetsk and Luhansk they voted for independence from Ukraine with 89% and 96% respectively of the vote. The response was an intensification of the military assault from Kiev.

In a subsequent presidential election from which millions abstained Petro Poroshenko won with a turnout of less than 45%. Since that time Donetsk and Luhansk have been pounded by the military, with more than 500 deaths, 1,400 injured and 165,000 refugees. Those who have resisted this onslaught are called “terrorists” by the Kiev regime, and “drunken hotheads” by Angus Roxburgh.
Neil Harvey

Dear Michael,

Hearty congratulations to you on becoming the new chief executive of the Global Reporting Initiative. Your selection among an exceptionally strong group of candidates bodes well for both GRI and the future of corporate transparency worldwide.

Ernst Ligteringen’s departure after a dozen years of exemplary leadership is a pivotal juncture rich in opportunities in a world dramatically different from 1997 when Bob Massie and I co-founded GRI. At that moment, we committed to a vision whose time we believed had come. We sensed that the ingredients common to all major social innovations – shared grievance, propitious timing, and bold leadership – were present and ready to fuel a major shift in corporate transparency. With collaboration from companies, investors, NGOs, labour groups and multilaterals in GRI’s early years, we were able to lay the foundation for the GRI that you will lead in the coming years.

GRI faces a spectrum of challenges in preserving its position at the vanguard of sustainability reporting. As you well know from your work as an entrepreneur, an organisation that stands still is an organisation that will not thrive in the long-term. GRI’s reconstituted governance is an example of adaptation in the face of a changing landscape in which sustainability reporting, in little more than a decade, has shifted from the extraordinary to the exceptional to the expected. Now, the challenge of raising the number of GRI reporters from thousands to tens of thousands demands a new generation of innovation, executed in a way that ensures that its original higher purpose – contributing to a just and sustainable global future – remains intact. Reporting has been, and always will be, a means to an end, not an end in itself. Disclosure is one among many necessary, but not sufficient conditions, for catalysing transformational change.

In collaboration with the Board, you undoubtedly are developing a strategy to guide GRI’s operations in the coming decade. From my outsider perspective, I hope that these deliberations include a number of critical questions: First, how to bring sustainability reporting to the hundreds of thousands of private companies worldwide to complement GRI’s strength with publicly-listed firms. Second, how to further advance customisation of reporting to address the diversity of materiality issues for both report preparers and report users such that no organisation can rightfully claim irrelevance, complexity or burden as an excuse not to report. Third, how to accelerate GRI reporting from “soft law” to “hard law” through integration in government policy, law and regulation.

Fourth, how to more closely and constructively collaborate with kindred disclosure initiatives to address market fatigue and confusion with disparate – and potentially complementary – initiatives. GRI’s memorandum of understanding (MoU) with IRRC (pdf) is a step in the right direction. Like any MoU, it’s not only what’s in writing that matters – it’s the concrete actions that follow that give any MoU real meaning. GRI’s efforts to cooperate with the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) should continue. The focus of the SASB – investor, US and sectoral – complements GRI’s multi-user, global and universal indicators strengths. Imagine the impact of harmonising these two initiatives in driving reporting excellence and uptake worldwide. Win-win arrangements are within reach.

And lastly, how to ensure that sustainability context – the integration of thresholds and limits into environmental and social disclosures – remains a high priority in GRI’s methodological innovation. The collective gains resulting from incremental improvements in environmental and social performance must be measured against the realities of finite constraints in terms of ecological limits and social norms if true sustainability is to be achieved.

Sustainability reporting and the transparency it promotes remains a work in progress, and always will be. New sustainability issues continuously emerge in a dynamic, rapidly changing world. In the early 2000’s, GRI identified HIV-AIDs as a material issue in mining and other extractive industries, a position met with raised eyebrows that soon gave way to broad acceptance by both reporters and report users. Now, privacy, livable wages, “dark pools” in financial markets and other emergent issues merit the same level of attention as carbon emissions, occupational health and safety, board diversity and other issues regarded as mainstream. The “mainstream” does not stand still; it continues to widen.

I wish you great success in leading GRI into its next phase. In a perilous world, its role as movement builder, thought leader and social entrepreneur is needed more than ever. With restructured and streamlined governance, an enduring commitment to innovation and collaboration, and reducing barriers to scaling the number of reports by orders of magnitude, GRI’s will continue to play the role of game changer that its founding fathers envisioned.


Allen White

Power struggle continues

Thank you for your comprehensive leader, Dusty scrolls of freedom (11 July). Over the past 10 years, the perpetual Magna Carta has periodically been on my mind whenever corruption and power grabbers make the news. Where in 1215, the aristocracy was successfully striving against King John for influence and power, with some crumbs eventually arriving at the mortals’ tables, over the past 10 years, particularly, corporations, their executives and billionaires, have been very successful in grabbing and securing influence and power.

Both in 1215 and today, taxation played an important role. Since serfs and slaves are gone, we plain mortals have legal rights that must continue to be protected by our judiciary against corporations, their executives and billionaires, as well as fallen politicians.
Axel Brock-Miller
Langford, British Columbia, Canada

The power of conscience

I am indebted to RR Reno, the editor of the American magazine First Things (January 2013), for this comment on nihilism by the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz: “A true opium for the people is a belief in nothingness after death – the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murder we are not going to be judged.”

It came back to me after I finished the enthralling coverage of the lengthy phone-hacking trial (4 July): first-class journalism, indeed, and a restrained but substantial contribution to public perception of the British justice system at work. Regardless of the final outcome, hemmed in as it was by legal chicanery of a high order made possible by limitless funding, a dubious lot were put on public display in a manner that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. In that sense, justice in an imperfect world was well served.

It may also be that, willy-nilly, like those of us who believe in a God and a moral universe, they have been or will be brought at some point to contemplate, even for a moment, the prospect of ultimate justice sitting there as a chink in their armour. That other fine poet, Will Shakespeare, had things to say about conscience doing things to people that others could not.
Bill Finn
St Paul, Alberta, Canada

Bureaucracy, India-style

Your article on Indian bureaucracy (Modi’s new broom, 11 July) reminds me of a story I heard in Kerala, in southern India, when I was working there many years ago. A government office wrote to its headquarters in Delhi asking permission to destroy some of its redundant files, complaining of the lack of storage space, that many of the files, because of old age, were virtually illegible etc.

At first there was no reply; finally, after about six months, the answer arrived. “Your request”, it said, “has received our sympathetic consideration. Permission to destroy the files is hereby granted, subject, however, to one condition: namely, that you will first make and store two photostat copies of each file. Hoping this will solve your problems, we remain etc”.

This may not be a true story, but it reflects on prevailing attitudes to the Delhi bureaucracy already held 40 years ago.
Wolf Scott
Geneva, Switzerland

Animals and antibiotics

So, yet another report tells us that, due to increased drug resistance to antibiotics, “modern medicine goes out the window” (11 July) and, yet again, no coverage is given to the fact that the routine feeding of antibiotics to animals in intensive farming is a major contributor to the development of resistance. While I agree that new antibiotics need to be developed and prescription to humans should be far more selective, the quickest gain would be to ban their routine use in farming.

Without routine feeding of antibiotics, most intensive farming operations would need to close down and we would find ourselves returning to a situation where cattle graze on meadows and fallow fields. But would this be such a bad thing?

Yes, meat prices would shoot up but this would mean that: a) when we do eat meat, it would be of far higher quality; b) that by eating less meat we would be healthier; c) that animals live far more humane lives and; d) that huge swaths of tropical forest would not need to be cut down to produce the millions of tonnes of animal feed needed to feed those suffering, overbred, highly medicated animals.
Alan Mitcham
Cologne, Germany

Appeal of the strongman

What can we learn from the present political situation in countries where corrupt leaders have been overthrown by revolution from within or by an outside agency? In Iraq, Libya, Egypt and of course the ongoing situation in Syria, we see chaos, instability, mass destruction and the murder of innocents (18 July). Surely the majority of the people in these countries must be looking back to the happier times before the revolution.

These chaotic situations have come about by removing, or attempting to remove, the presiding regime or leader. To an outsider, it is evident that the countries involved are far worse off than they were before the revolution.

The question has to be asked: perhaps a country like Iraq or Egypt needs a strong man like Saddam Hussein or Hosni Mubarak to impose a measure of stability, even if it might involve a considerable degree of repression. Is the western version of democracy appropriate in these countries? The answer is certainly not yet and possibly never. Democracy is only possible after a long political process that might stretch over centuries and cannot be imposed on a country riven by sectarian divisions simply because democracy is a nice idea.

This is not to suggest that strongman leaders such as Muammar Gaddafi, Mubarak and Saddam are indispensable – but possibly necessary at given moments in a country’s evolution towards a more democratic model.
Titus Foster
Shoreham, UK

The problem of gender

The sex of the new sloth baby will not be known as there are no external differences between males and females (Shortcuts, 30 May). What confusion if this were true of human infants. What colour clothes to buy the baby, whether to buy it a doll or a truck, whether to tell the baby what a pretty little thing it is or what a big strong boy.

Whatever would we do? We would be completely flummoxed – no gender – horrors! We would have to let it grow up to be whatever it wanted to be and whoever it actually is as a person. One thing we would surely not do is dress the baby in a frock, just in case it later turned out to be a boy. What could be worse? Dressing a boy in a frock like a girl: The biggest possible insult.
Susan Grimsdell
Auckland, New Zealand


• The story asking why there are fewer bank robbers these days (11 July) didn’t touch on two things a real bank robber told me: it is very expensive to plan and pull off a robbery (stolen cars, accommodation and meals before and after, false identification, passing the money and so on). Non-robbers also have no idea that a typical robbery would only gross about $80,000 and they have no idea how heavy a hockey bag full of banknotes is. Plus, it’s pretty hard to hide.
D B Scott
Cambridge, Ontario, ​Canada

• Since it is now over three years since the south of Sudan ceased to be part of the biggest country in Africa, and became an independent country, is it not possible for the Guardian to find a map which shows this recent reality? In the article West Africa Ebola now ‘out of control’(11 July), the small map intended to indicate all the national boundaries on the continent showed the the unmistakable shape of the old Sudan, pre-9 July 2011. Can we be sure that the facts in the article are correct, if the presentation is so sloppy?
Kate Begley
Shields, UK

Re Steven Poole’s review of In the Interests of Safety (4 July). At an airport in Paris I had three 200g tins of pâté confiscated at security. They told me that I was allowed 150g each only, but if the containers had been glass (!) it would have been OK. There were three bins for disposal, one marked sharp objects, one aerosols and one pâté.
E Slack
L’Isle Jourdain, France

• Jenny Diski, in her review of the book Thrive (18 July), seems to conflate unhappiness, a normal and ubiquitous mood, with depression, a fairly well-defined illness. Big Pharma would love that.
Paul Mestitz

Geelong, Victoria, Australia

Please send letters to weekly.letters@theguardian.com


Why can’t the countryside be governed by the people who actually understand it?” asks the headline on Nigel Farage’s column of 19 July. I know that Ukip harks back to “the good old days”, but isn’t the 18th century going a bit far?

The people who understand the countryside are those who earn their living there by producing our food. If Nigel Farage wanted to get an idea of the countryside he should have gone to any of the big regional agricultural shows and spoken to productive members of rural society.

Instead he went as a guest of the Country Landowners’ Association to the annual Game Fair held at Blenheim Palace – an event for the country’s wealthiest elite and gun-toting City types, to whom the countryside is a noisy playground, an onshore tax-haven and a conduit through which they can expropriate vast amounts of EU agricultural subsidy in the form of the “single farm payment”.

In the rest of the EU these payments go almost entirely to working family farms. In the UK they are snaffled away by those who own the land, either by claiming the subsidy before renting the land to those who work it, or by forcing up rents to such a level that all of the subsidy goes to the landowner.

It is shocking for Mr Farage to say that Ukip would limit the EU payment going to any individual; the EU has been trying to do this for years , thwarted by the ultra-rich British establishment, his hosts at Blenheim, lobbying the UK government against any limit.

Aidan Harrison
Rothbury, Northumberland

I visited a small farm which is in an EU “stewardship” scheme. There were hares everywhere on the wide field margins. If I were a hare, I wouldn’t vote for Nigel Farage.

Alison Brackenbury
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

MH17 reveals gaping hole in air safety

Media coverage since the loss of MH17 seems to focus on the rights and wrongs of the various criminals involved, but to me as an engineer the terrible loss of 298 persons is a result of the failure of a system, the air transport system that is tasked with keeping us all safe.

No aircraft had any business overflying Ukraine in the last few weeks as evidence mounted that weapons being used were a growing threat to civil aviation. The weak link in the chain seems to me to be that a country is responsible for certifying its own airspace, when there are reasons of national pride and competence, not to mention over-flight fees, that could cloud local officials’ judgement.

There will always be the Putins of the world but the airline industry, by addressing this gaping hole in our air transport protocols, will go farther to prevent further atrocities than any amount of moral indignation.

John Holdsworth
London E14


Yes, McVey should keep quiet

So poor Esther McVey will sit at Cameron’s Cabinet table but will not be allowed to speak (Matthew Norman, 21 July). No surprise there.

She has in recent months visited the school where two of my nieces go, to inspire the young female sixth-form students. She showed a clear lack of interest in them or their concerns for their uncertain job future. But they noticed her distinct interest in the press cameras that were in the same room, so much so that the students renamed her “Esther McMe”.

One 17-year-old said Esther would do well to take the cotton wool out of her ears and shove it in her mouth. Perhaps Cameron had the same thought?

Anna Christie


Pictures of the victims of war

I agree with Robert Fisk (21 July) about the censoring of news pictures from war zones, and especially from Gaza. The coy phrase “some viewers may find the pictures disturbing” is in itself disturbing to most thoughtful people.

If pictures were on our TV screens showing a parent running in terror carrying her child with a limb torn off or half its face blown away, instead of the sanitised pictures of wrapped bodies on the way to burial, how long would public outrage be contained?

After a few days of censored pictures and action shots of long-range guns or helicopter gunships the public switch off; we have seen it all before. Let the world see the real effect of high explosive on human bodies, not its affect on piles of concrete rubble, and the outrage would demand it stop immediately.

Gary Kirk
Burnley, Lancashire

I find Robert Fisk’s suggestion that we should be shown the uncensored pictures of dead bodies in war zones most unsavoury. It affronts the very essence of a civilised society.

If it were to prevent war I could understand, but it won’t. Instead it will create even more hatred and a craving for revenge, which, in the Middle East, will recruit yet more bloodthirsty jihadis.

The last thing we need is more voyeuristic pornography on our television screens.

Stan Labovitch

Wrong place for a statue of Gandhi

The proposal to erect a statue to Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square is a stunt worthy of Tony Blair’s spin machine. It shows a lack of understanding of history and is a blatant tool of diplomacy.

Gandhi is certainly worth commemorating: he was a great man and a key figure in promoting non-violence. However, this is not the way to commemorate him or the place to do it.

Gandhi was primarily interested in moral and ethical issues, not in participating in parliamentary democracy. He led the Congress boycott of the 1920 elections, which began a process of devolution of powers within a parliamentary system, allowing responsibility in certain subjects to Indian ministers. Thereafter, he was involved more in obstructing constitutional change than promoting it, culminating in his call for mass civil disobedience at the moment when the Japanese invasion in 1942 was threatening India.

There is already a very fine statue to Gandhi in Tavistock Square, London, now known by many as “Pea   ce Park”. Parliament Square, standing near his arch-critic Winston Churchill, is inappropriate.

Gandhi is too often used as a convenient icon, whilst neglecting his real messages. A much better commemoration of the Mahatma would be the provision of scholarships for overseas students in law (Gandhi’s chosen subject), human rights, and business ethics.

Philip Woods
London W5


An appointment with shameless commerce

My GP surgery have just installed an on-line appointments system and, guess what, it cost them nothing. Wonderful! Except of course it isn’t.

If I had known it was a freebie before I used it I would not have touched it with a barge-pole, because one of the things which you learn is that free sites are not to be trusted.

I got a load of trouble in the shape of pop-up adverts. My computer started to look like the Blackpool sea front. That people think they have the right to put stuff I do not want and cannot easily remove on my computer without my permission makes me fume. It cost me £50 to get MacAfee to do it for me.

I understand that the suppliers of the service are completely unapologetic. They say “That’s how we make our money”  and “people can get pop-up blockers”. Understood, but I resent the onus being put on me to pay keep out stuff I do not want. I know I have to do this with “cowboy” sites, which I do by simply ignoring them, but I do not expect to have to put up with this from my doctor!

It doesn’t give you much confidence in business morality which, in my view, is rapidly going downhill. I do not want the Health Service joining in this decline.

Dudley Dean
Maresfield, East Sussex


Assisted dying is all about choice

It was very difficult to read Robyn Appleton’s description of his father’s final hours (letter, 19 July) without emotion. On the face of it, the letter made a powerful case for perseverance with the status quo regarding assisted suicide.

However it brought into focus the critical issue here. Were the law to change in favour of Lord Falconer’s private member’s Bill, Mr Appleton’s father would still have had the option to see out his life in pain or to choose to end it all, albeit assisted. As things stand, those of us who would welcome the choice will still have no such option.

Philip Stephenson


Superbugs on  the rampage

In your report “Shock find of superbugs in river alarms scientists” (19 July) sewage-treatment plants are described as giant “mixing vessels” where antibiotic resistance can spread between microbes. With increasing outbreaks of ebola virus in West Africa, and smallpox being regenerated in laboratories, is this nature’s WMD?

Mike Loveland
London SE1


Discussion between atheists and the faithful seems never to bring the participants closer

Sir, As a deeply sceptical and God-fearing agnostic I was bemused by Matt Ridley’s attack on the “faith virus” of religion (July 21). When will those in the vanguard of muscular atheism realise that it takes just as much faith to believe in nothing as it does to believe in something? Both are equally implausible and incomprehensible explanations of why we are here and in this regard at least atheism is no more than just another religion; alongside the usual suspects and newer pretenders including humanism and environmentalism. The faith virus takes many forms but is peculiarly resistant to self-diagnosis.

Paul Kohler
Head of the School of Law, SOAS

Sir, I hope that many Christians will take a long hard look at their beliefs after reading, among other salient points, that religious foundation free schools are more vulnerable to religious fundamentalism than non-faith schools. That the UK is listed with Estonia, Israel and Ireland in allowing religious selection in schools is frankly embarrassing.

Richard Perkins

Sir, I am all in favour of alliances between Christians and gentle, tolerant humanists like Matt Ridley. but if his description of Anglicanism as a virus or infection is a good example of humanist tolerance I doubt if the alliances will last long.

Philip McCarthy
Bebington, Merseyside

Sir, Matt Ridley is right. Schools should not have the power to turn away pupils simply because they or their parents have the “wrong” beliefs, particularly when a survey in November 2012 found that 73 per cent of British adults agree. The Cantle Report also found that faith schools with religiously selective admissions are automatically a source of ethnic division in their local communities. In our increasingly pluralistic society, how can we justify continuing to divide children in their formative years along religious, and hence ethnic, lines? The easiest and fairest solution is the secularisation of our education system: the abolition of religiously motivated admissions policies, collective worship and ideally faith schools in general.

Juhani Taylor
Swindon, Wilts

Sir, I question Matt Ridley’s view that “humanists are showing no sign of turning intolerant”. I have to assume that he has not read any of the works by notable atheists in recent years. Those that I have read, including that by Richard Dawkins, all take an aggressive, abusive and dismissive attitude to belief and faith, which they clearly do not understand, nor more importantly wish to understand, and frequently demean and belittle those who do have belief and faith. Is this not intolerant?

Mr Ridley himself uses the phrase “faith virus” and makes a point about communist regimes enforcing “a worship of their leaders with all the techniques and fervour of religion”, missing the point that this was (and in North Korea remains) brainwashing propaganda underpinned by violence, torture, show trials and labour camps.

As a Christian, I respect and indeed would defend Ridley’s right to freedom of thought, expression and yes belief. May I ask why he doesn’t respect mine?

Andrew Carr
Dartford, Kent

Sir, Your cartoon (“You’ll have had your tea”, July 21) has got it wrong if the café is meant to be in Glasgow.

When you visit in Glasgow, the first words you hear are “Come away in and have something to eat”; in Edinburgh “You’ll have had your tea”; and in Aberdeen you will find that the table is groaning with food — and the prices are all very reasonable.

Charles McLay


Sir, The hospitality of Glaswegians is legendary, and to associate us with a less than friendly welcome to visitors, attributed to Edinburgh, deserves nothing less than a “Glasgow Kiss”. That may defeat my first assertion, however.

Kate Hollywood


Sir, One of the golden orfe in our pond in Hampshire (I can’t recall whether it was Naff Orfe or Push Orfe) developed a nasty white growth, and I reluctantly decided to catch it in case it affected the other fish in the pond. It proved far too wary to be caught in a net, and I wondered about the problem until one day I saw it basking in the sun very close to the surface of the water. So I took out my trusty .22 air rifle, and after much difficulty recalling my school certificate physics and the laws of refraction, I took careful aim and fired. I luckily got it right, because the fish just gently rolled over, quite dead, and my wife’s protestations about draining the pond subsided.

H. Rigg

Porlock, Somerset

Sirs, Your letters about shooting fish remind me of a tale told by a friend. When he was a youngster he was shooting rabbits by the side of the Tweed. One day he saw a large salmon in the water. A quick look round — nobody watching — he fired both barrels at once at the fish. The salmon was completely unharmed by this, of course, but it surfaced long enough for my friend to land it and dispatch it. He broke his gun, put the barrel and salmon into the gun bag, wrapped the stock in his anorak and went home with his catch on the bus.

Bernard Airlie

Biggar, Lanarkshire

Sir, What is it with your writers and regional accents? Andrew Billen complains of “impenetrable
northern” (is that generic?) in a TV review; Robert Crampton in recent travels couldn’t understand a Cornishman; and so on, passim. Perhaps you — to use your favoured metropolitan collective pronoun — spend too much time in a monoculture.

Despite living in the southeast, I have no trouble understanding the locals elsewhere, apart from perhaps Sarf Lunnun. Oh, and middle-class subtext in the home counties . . .

J Roger Knight


Sir, I found the comment “once you get past the impenetrable northern accents” by your TV reviewer to be offensive and the typically condescending view of people who inhabit the world inside the M25. I can assure you there are impenetrable accents emanating south of Watford.

W Jopson

Haslingden, Lancs


SIR – The move to mass-medicate, using statins for prevention (Letters, July 19), is not without its cost to the individual.

Travel insurance policies generally allow for one medication to be taken, for existing medical conditions, without consequences to the price or cover of the policy. If the large numbers now covered under this exemption started also to take statins, just in case, then they would find themselves having to purchase more expensive cover.

Kevin Cottrell
Buckland, Oxfordshire

SIR – The eminent physicians writing on Saturday’s Letters page are correct that it is for patients to choose whether they adopt statins as medication in place of lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, they overlook the fundamental point that the relevant information is deliberately withheld from patients, and indeed from the GPs to whom they would naturally turn for advice.

The pharmaceutical companies are allowed to refrain from publishing virtually all their trials data. What are the side effects of statins? No one is allowed to know, so we have to go on hearsay.

I work on the assumption that if the companies had nothing to hide, they wouldn’t hide it.

David R Lewis
Purley, Surrey

Sounds of summer

SIR – Helen Brown, in her choice of summer songs, has left out the most iconic of all: Mungo Jerry’s In the Summertime.

Robert Clarke
Kilmore, Argyll

The Major

SIR – Years ago, a colleague and I travelled throughout England on business. At noon we kept our eyes open for a good-looking pub (Letters, July 21). The routine was always the same. My colleague would say: “Morning, mine host, two pints of your best bitter, please. Has the Major been in yet?”

Only about 20 per cent of the time did the landlord reply that the pub didn’t have a Major. Four times out of five the landlord would say one of the following: “It’s a bit early for him.” “You’ve just missed him.” “He’s on holiday.” “He’s in the gents.” “He is round the back, hiding from his wife.” Or: “He is over there.”

We met many nice majors over the years.

John Ashworth
Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire

Trusting grown-ups

SIR – John C Powell (Letters, July 21) laments that a man can no longer offer a lift to a strange woman without fearing an accusation of sexual assault.

The difference between the Britain of half a century ago and today is that general belief in the moral and social responsibility (then called “respectability”) of ordinary people in the street was axiomatic and almost invariably justified.

When, at the age of seven in the late Fifties, I started to walk the mile or so from home to my London day school, my mother gave me the simple instruction: “If you get lost or find yourself in any kind of trouble, ask a grown-up for help.”

All my friends were given the same advice. On the few occasions when we did go astray we were looked after (and if necessary admonished) by strangers with the same care as we received from neighbours or teachers. It is difficult to imagine responsible parents giving similar guidance to their children today.

Charles Jackson
Hyssington, Montgomery

Culture wars

SIR – The call by the Earl of Clancarty and 97 other signatories (Letters, July 21) for the overdue ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict could not be more timely, with current events in the Middle East and in Ukraine.

Some might argue that in the heat of armed conflict, no one will think twice about protecting a few old stones. But they miss the point. Protecting cultural property is not just about preventing the looting of artefacts and destruction of sites; it is also about protecting what these physical things represent – the intangible heritage and heart of long-standing communities.

What better way of using some of the spare time of this Parliament than to ratify a convention to which the rest of the civilised world has already committed?

Professor Peter Stone
Head of School of Arts and Cultures
Newcastle University

Dial N for Nobody

SIR – I have a problem when I telephone a business. I use a Seventies GPO telephone, plan 706, with a rotary dial. When asked to press a number for the department I want, I have to wait until someone speaks to me.

Sometimes this never happens and I am then at a loss of what to do.

Stephen Woodbridge-Smith
Tavistock, Devon

The curse of neighbours’ trampolines

SIR – Oh how I agree with Jacky Maggs (Letters, July 21) about trampolines in neighbours’ gardens! Our neighbours have screaming, trampolining children, and when these are too tired to do any more to spoil the day, their parents plus friends go on into the night to shriek with laughter over a nice, chilled, al fresco bottle of wine.

Felicity Foulis Brown
Bramley, Hampshire

SIR – When I moved here, my neighbour told me not to let my children play in the garden, but send them to the park. I replied that we had bought a house with a big garden so the children could play in it.

Thirty years later, a family with three young children lives next door. The children really enjoy their trampoline. I like to hear the noise, laughter and screaming of children playing. Some people as they get older seem to forget they were ever children themselves.

Geraldine Thompson
Petts Wood, Kent

SIR – We ended up moving across the country to avoid the noise emanating from our neighbour’s garden after they bought a 20ft-wide trampoline for their three children. It wasn’t their children so much, but the 15 or so “friends” deposited daily in the school holidays, while the yummy-mummies were having coffee and a chat.

Marion Martin
Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire

The turbines are coming: now it’s Rye Harbour, East Sussex; next a wind farm off Brighton  Photo: alamy

6:59AM BST 22 Jul 2014


SIR – The development of 175 wind turbines off the Sussex coast (telegraph.co.uk, July 21), which will ruin views, has now been approved in an act of vandalism by Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary. The news slipped out when attention was on the government reshuffle.

Among the objectors were the National Trust and the South Downs National Park Authority. There is no opportunity for appealing against this decision. People will wish they had paid more attention during the planning inquiry. I hope they will at least remember the politicians, both local and national, who failed to oppose this expensive fiasco and that they will take their revenge at the ballot box.

In the meantime I advise anyone who is thinking of visiting Brighton to do so sooner rather than later.

Tony Saunders
Brighton, East Sussex

SIR – I wonder if the Energy Secretary spoke to the Defence Secretary before agreeing to site 175 wind turbines off the south coast.

It would not be too difficult for a band of so-called freedom fighters to organise half a dozen rigid rib craft with a 50 knot engine on the rear and half a ton of explosives on the front for a raid.

Roy Deal
Locks Heath, Hampshire

The inability of national governments to get to grips with the MH17 disaster is distressing

Dealing with Russia in the wake of the destruction of the Malaysia Airlines flight

 A pro-Russia rebel guards a train containing the bodies of victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 crash on July 21, 2014 in Torez

A pro-Russia rebel guards a train containing the bodies of victims of the MH17 crash in Torez Photo: Getty

7:00AM BST 22 Jul 2014


SIR – I am not certain which is more distressing: the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, or the inability of governments throughout the world to take any action over it.

Simon Graley
Brinkworth, Wiltshire

SIR – President Vladimir Putin of Russia blamed Ukraine for the downing of flight MH17 “because the tragedy happened over its territory”. The West blames Putin, for his support of the insurgency in south-east Ukraine with arms and possibly men, and is contemplating more damaging sanctions against Russia.

The West needs to tread with care. The more damaging the sanctions, the less Putin has to lose by invading and occupying part, or even the whole, of Ukraine upon the pretext of restoring peace to that country and making its airspace safe.

The Rev His Honour Peter Morrell
Nassington, Northamptonshire

SIR – This tragedy brings to mind the Katyn forest massacre in the Second World War, with which Russia strongly denied any implication for decades.

The old Communist rule book advised reacting to any such incidents by diverting attention away from the immediate issue and side-tracking with partly irrelevant comments.

Mr Putin’s lack of vigorous action suggests that he has a guilty conscience.

A A B Wood
Storeton Parva, Wirral

SIR – I don’t recall Britain blaming the Irish Taoiseach every time the IRA or INLA committed an atrocity. Why are we doing it to Russia?

Rev Philip Foster
Hemingford Abbots, Huntingdonshire

SIR – Following the act of war by Russian proxies last week, the French government must now halt the sale to Russia of the two Mistral-class assault ships (one of them named, with tragic irony, Sevastapol).

The 300 Russian sailors who arrived on June 29 in Saint-Nazaire, France, to receive training, should also now fly straight back to Russia.

Simon Gaul

SIR – It’s all very well putting sanctions on individuals, but more appropriate sanctions are needed that will affect the economy of everyday Russians and let them know what’s going on.

A good start would be immediately to stop all European and American cruise liners calling at any Russian or Crimean port. Places such as St Petersburg would soon be up in arms at the effect it would have on their economy.

Robert Nicholls
Kidderminster, Worcestershire

SIR – Is it not time to reconsider whether Russia should be hosting the next football World Cup? There were already some questions arising at the time it was chosen, and subsequent events have cast further doubts on how appropriate this is.

Peter Banister
Taunton, Somerset

SIR – Baroness Ashton and Herman Van Rompuy poked a stick into a wasps’ nest by encouraging Ukraine to try to join the EU without maintaining friendly relations with Russia. That is not to absolve Mr Putin and his terrorist friends, who deserve the blame for shooting down MH17, but a tiny bit of responsibility lies with those running the EU.

George Herrick
Pendleton, Lancashire

SIR – Before it turns into a casus belli, can we be certain that this catastrophe is the result of a surface-to-air missile, given this it is the second Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 to suffer an unexplained fate?

Alasdair Macleod
Sidmouth, Devon

Irish Times:

Sir, – As Stephen Collins (July 19th) rightly points out, Mary Lou McDonald’s recent claim that the IRA campaign in Northern Ireland was “inevitable” must be challenged.

While she is right that nationalists in Northern Ireland experienced blatant injustices and discrimination, this in no way legitimises the armed response of the IRA. In fact, opposition to those injustices was led not by the IRA but by the leaders of the peaceful and democratic civil rights movement. As a result of their work, major reforms were achieved in housing allocation, employment, the electoral franchise and policing. They also negotiated the reform of the governance of the Northern Ireland state in the Sunningdale Agreement of 1974, which included power-sharing between unionists and nationalists and the establishment of all-island institutions.

The IRA, however, completely rejected this agreement and demonised those democrats who negotiated it. Instead, they embarked on their own “long war”, with the stated aim of making Northern Ireland ungovernable under a crude “Brits Out” strategy – without reference to reform, civil rights, or ending discrimination and injustice. This caused thousands of deaths and countless atrocities and saw Northern Ireland caught in a bitter sectarian conflict between the IRA, loyalist paramilitaries and British security forces.

Only when the IRA belatedly came to the conclusion that they could not win did they begin to seek a way out. This came at the expense of many lives and a deeply divided society in Northern Ireland that remains divided in the more peaceful era enjoyed today.

Sinn Féin leaders have received credit for finding a way out of the bloody cul-de-sac into which the IRA should never have gone. Their party has entered the political mainstream and achieved success. But any credit is tarnished when they try to rewrite history and claim that the IRA campaign was in any way justified.



Co Derry

Sir, – Gerry Adams, in his recent response to Prof John A Murphy, seems to have missed his most important point, which was that nationalists in general should “face up to the unpalatable historical truth that some form of partition … was necessary to deal with the two conflicting nations in Ireland”.

Similarly, some form of “partition” is necessary to deal with the same two conflicting nations in Northern Ireland. But not according to Prof Murphy: “At this stage in Northern Ireland, surely what is needed most is a long period of peaceful community relations and the slow building of reconciliation.” But he had actually dismissed this kind of talk from Gerry Adams: “But this is no more than aspirational waffle … Orange has shown no interest in any ‘accommodation’ with Green.”

To quote unionist columnist Alex Kane, writing in the News Letter: “Or – and I did say we had a choice – we keep going as we are and accept the most difficult truth of all: which is that we really don’t like each other, don’t want to work together and won’t ever have a common agenda or purpose. I suspect the latter represents the unvarnished truth of our situation.”

What we need to understand and accept is that the Ulster Protestant people do not want to be part of a united Ireland, full stop. The main “republican ideal” is to coerce those people into a united Ireland by force of numbers. To quote Gerry Adams, “a peaceful path to Irish unity”. – Is mise,


Teach Clifton,

North Queen Street,


Sir, — As many Irish speakers have stated, the Gaelic language is the first offical language of the State and our native tongue.

If that is the case, why do we need a Department of the Gaeltacht when we don’t have a Department of English? Why are there Irish language schools for Irish people, when the English language schools are only used by foreigners? If Irish is becoming more popular, how come the Gaeltacht has not increased in size since it was created?

Why do we have Údarás na Gaeltachta, which wastes half its €17.5 million funding on administration? How many multinational companies set up in Ireland because of our Irish speakers? Why do our schoolchildren spend so much time on two subjects, Irish and religion, which are of minimal use in getting a job, contribute nothing to the economy or exchequer, and in relation to which most children leave school knowing as much about them as when they started.

Why does the website of An Coimisinéir Teanga focus on Irish language rights, when the Official Languages Act 2003 instructs him to protect the rights of both languages? And why do Irish language activists continually ask for public services through Irish and then not use them? Case in point, for Census 2011, of the 1,662,253 forms submitted, only 7,806, or 0.47 per cent, were the Irish version. – Yours, etc,




Co Dublin

A chara, – Aidan Doyle’s assertion that native speakers of Irish prefer to use English with State bodies is misleading. If services through Irish weren’t provided so grudgingly and without question there would be no issue. For no practical reason, many of us have had to wait for extended periods and even produce solicitors’ letters to avail of these services. It would be a terrible mistake to change the constitutional status of Irish as this is our defence against a Government that, in spite of its rhetoric, is doing everything to discourage us from speaking our language. – Le meas,


Cearnóg an Ghraeigh,

Baile Átha Cliath 8

Sir,- I am pleased to hear that the Minister for the Gaeltacht, Joe McHugh, has to brush up on his Irish (your editorial, of 19th July 19th).

I hope, however, that he will be realistic and also speak English freely, as he would in any other European country when he has a problem with the local language. I am pleased, since at last the majority of Irish speakers (the ones not fluent in the language) will have a rep familiar with our difficulties, one who might hopefully face the realities that we labour under, such as – the gross imbalance between funding of creative writing in Irish and expenditure on translating official documents; the need to boot the language high priests to allow freedom of expression and modernisation in old-fashioned grammar such as prefixes – which are the bane of students and writers. That would be rebalancing his portfolio, which after all includes Irish culture. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16

Sir, – If and when Joe McHugh attains “fluency in the State’s first official language” (your editorial “A tongue-tied Minister”, July 19th), might he be tempted to show off his newly acquired skill by communicating solely through the medium of Irish while in the Dáil chamber?

If so, I feel such a course of action would be bound to shame the majority of our “linguistically challenged” Deputies currently ensconced in the lower house to enroll into (subsidised?) Irish language classes during the long winter months. Ní faide gob na gé ná gob an ghandail. – Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill,


Co Dublin

A chara, – Bíonn go leor daoine ag fail lochtanna orthu siúd a bhaineann triall as an chuid Gaeilge atá acu. Níl taithí ar bith eile níos comhachtaí chun stop a chur le scaipeadh na dteangan. Ní feictear an friothgníomh céanna le daoine nach bhfuil Béarla foirfe acu pé Éireannaigh iad nó eachtrannach. Ba choir dúinn fáilte a chur roimh éinne atá sásta an iarracht a dhéanamh má theastaíonn uainn an teanga a scaipeadh níos forleithne. (Níl aon amhras orm ach go bhfuil lochtanna ag baint leis an litir seo feasta!) – Is mise,



Co Kildare.

Sirs, – I refer to the article “Denis O’Brien ‘is on the wrong side of history’, says Viber chief” written by Mark Paul (Business This Week, July 18th). Unfortunately, your piece seems to focus upon the misleading and self-serving version of events presently being advanced on Viber’s behalf. In so doing, some fundamental facts are omitted and thus the piece lacks balance.

Viber entered into a written agreement with Digicel, but is now refusing to pay for the services provided under that agreement. The article also fails to highlight that it is illegal in many markets in the Caribbean (most notably in Jamaica and Haiti) to deliberately circumvent the facilities of licensed network operators.

Indeed, in many of these markets, a very significant portion of the revenue earned from international incoming traffic is passed to local governments in the form of Universal Service Funds and other government-imposed levies. This bypass deliberately deprives both licenced operators and governments of significant revenues whilst earning windfall sums for parties that have invested nothing in the region but who seek to make a quick buck on the back of significant capital investment made by others.

The issue is not about being on the wrong side of history; it is about being on the right side of the law. Mr Paul also fails to inform your readers that Digicel’s primary competitor in the region, Cable and Wireless, has taken similar action and has also blocked certain VoIP operators in the region, including Viber. – Yours, etc,


Director of International


Digicel Group Limited,



Sir, – Frank Flannery (“Flannery criticises FG election efforts”, July 22nd) is too critical. Voters supported Fine Gael at the last general election primarily to bring back financial stability to the country. Since that time, it has comprehensively delivered on that objective. Ten-year bond yields currently oscillate around 2.5 per cent, exceeding what would have been reasonable expectations three years ago. The party put in place a target of 100,000 jobs created by 2016, and that target has since become a realistic one.

It is true that the voters did not reward the party at the last local elections. Such a decline in support was, on the whole, unjustified. The tradition of complaining about the Government has become so deeply ingrained in Irish society that it has become almost automatic. Whichever party takes on the difficult task of government after the next election will face similar criticism after a short-lived political “honeymoon”. Mr Flannery’s comments do not sufficiently reflect that reality. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14

Sir, – Tim Dennehy (Letters, July 21st) notes that The Irish Times has not published any expressions of opinion supporting the direct provision system for asylum seekers. He is correct, perhaps because to support direct provision is to defend the indefensible. Supporting it justifies an unjustifiable situation for those men, women and children forced to live in reprehensible conditions, day after day, year after year in a brutal limbo.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights hearings last week made it clear that the Government supports and defends direct provision. Countless letters and articles have apparently not yet demonstrated to it the vast and overwhelming depravity of it.

So we’ll keep writing. – Yours, etc,


Anne Street North,

Dublin 7

A chara, – To answer concerns raised by Breda O’Brien about certain social media sites (Opinion & Analysis, July 19th) Declan Kelly lashes into the Roman Catholic Church (Letters, July 22nd).

Debate in this country is going to become fairly simple, but very boring and rather pointless, if instead of actually addressing issues that come up we instead employ a one-size-fits-all response along the lines of “Forget about that – just look at the Catholic Church.” – Is mise,



Co Kilkenny

Sir, – I am a proud Cork man and Irish man. I am of average weight (or less); I am not an alcoholic or a drug addict; I do not own any apartments in Bulgaria or anywhere else. In this I am typical of most citizens of this country.

Fintan O’Toole (“We Irish are unable to think about the future”, July 22nd) seems to be addicted to gross generalisations and lazy self-loathing on our collective behalf. Arbitrary generalisations about a nation, or any other subset of humanity, offend me, as they do any right-thinking person. Mr O’Toole should desist from this practice. – Yours, etc,


Salmon View Terrace,


Sir, – Gerry Adams (July 22nd) states that “The citizens of Gaza may hear of the Irish parliament extending solidarity to them.”

The trouble is that the “citizens of Gaza” include Hamas, who may feel that the Dáil gesture denotes unquestioning support for their militant behaviour. It may not be seen as “something that represents the feeling of a huge number of Irish people – that is peace in the Middle East?”

Mr Adams, of all people, should know that the first step to achieving peace anywhere is to cease military activity that is clearly failing in its objective and to seek unconditional dialogue.

If Ireland wants to position itself as a peacemaker, it must first be careful not to be seen as taking sides. This should not preclude us from deploring the lethal consequences on both sides of armed conflict. – Yours, etc,


Bromley Court,

Sir, – I note with some alarm the award of €70,000 to a born again Christian dismissed from his position for repeatedly failing to respect the rights of others to a religion-free workplace.

The equality officer in this case would, I am sure, equally find in favour of myself as an atheist had I formally complained about a colleague behaving in this manner and the management had subsequently failed to prevent his (entirely inappropriate) behaviour.

What can an employer do, caught between two such positions, when the person charged with hearing a case like this shows such a lamentable lack of common sense or judgement?

I should have thought that any equality officer worth the title would have had no difficulties in telling those of any particular creed or faith (or lack of it!) to leave it where it belongs in a modern workplace – at the door. Yours, etc,



Dublin 8

Sir,   – I’m gobsmacked by your report (“Council worker unfairly sacked over his faith”, July 22nd).  Next time I visit my council office, in the event of the official I deal with being an evangelical Christian, a scientologist or a salafist,  am I obliged to put up with advocacy, or even proselytising, as part of the transaction?  Even though I only want a parking permit?   Ye Gods!   – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin

Sir, – Ronan O’Brien (“Redmond’s role in story of State should be recognised”, July 21st) describes “a constitutional triumvirate that dominated Irish politics for a century”.

Really it was a string quartet, and one with an obvious first violin. Sure, O’Connell, Parnell and Redmond were the most significant politicians. But there was also ecclesiastical dominance, personified in particular by Cardinal Paul Cullen (1852-78).

The Catholic bishops were on the happy side of every election in Ireland from 1832 until 1880, including 1859, when they backed the British Conservative Party then led by the Earl of Derby and Benjamin Disraeli. – Yours, etc,




Co Roscommon

Sir, – Brian Maye’s account of WG Grace as a cricketer (Irishman’s Diary, July 22nd) also mentions his qualification as a medical doctor. He may have been a great cricketer but he was my grandmother’s not-so-great physician – she was an invalid most of her life. – Yours, etc,





Irish Independent:

* I attended Croke Park last Sunday where I watched a wonderful minor Leinster final between Dublin and Kildare.

I then watched a one-sided Leinster senior final where it was all over bar the shouting by half time.

It was not what I expected.

Yes, Dublin are indeed a class act. Yet there are TV, radio and newspaper pundits who still labour on about this team not yet being tested as if to say that there are better teams out there who will finally take the scalp of the All-Ireland champions.

There are some who go so far as to say that Dublin’s superiority is no help to the other teams in Leinster or to any of the other provinces.

It might be no harm to remind these whimpering pundits that the mighty Kerry won the All-Ireland no less than 14 times from 1975 onwards, while the wonderful Kilkenny hurlers have lifted the championship nine times since 2000.

I don’t recall any moaning when either of these teams dominated their respective games.

They forced other teams to step up to their class.

They made other teams realise that it can be done, only if the will is there and it is allied to help and encouragement from the county boards.

Everyone secretly wants to see the matador gored no matter how great he may be.

And for a long time the world of boxing wanted to see Cassius Clay, later the great Muhammad Ali, being defeated until they finally grudgingly bowed to his superiority.

And so it goes on and on. It’s called human nature – or to be more precise, the secret wish of the begrudger.

To all of the aforementioned, bow your heads now and ask for forgiveness before the time comes when this great Dublin team have long since retired and you will probably whisper between the slugs from your pint: “Ah yeah, that Dublin team was great alright.”




* I realise that we are a dying breed – by which I mean those who can remember the newspaper reports from the late 1940s when the Stern Gang, the Irgun Guerrillas and, to a lesser extent, Haganah were establishing the Jewish homeland as promised in the Balfour Declaration.

With the Arabs trying to keep their land from Jewish immigrants (legal and illegal), the French police were saving London when they stopped a group from the Stern Gang who were planning an aerial bombardment.

The retaliation was similar to today, more noisy but less effective.

Some years ago Geoffrey Wheatcroft wrote an interesting article in ‘The Daily Telegraph’, drawing attention to how much of the Earth’s troubles derive from the Old Testament, inter-Jewish, inter-Christian and inter-Islam factions and the three main bodies carrying out Crusades and Jihads.

I feel Christians are now moving towards the message of Christ through ecumenism but the other two are still in the mire, believing in a vengeful, unforgiving and self-righteous God. For their sakes, I hope when they finally meet him he is not.




* I have just read the Ian O’Doherty piece on Israel and was slightly shocked by his take on the situation in Gaza, with him believing that we are being fed lies by the media and receiving incorrect information. What the facts tell us is that France and Britain organised there to be an area for European Jews to live in Palestine over a century ago.

What the facts tell us is that the UN partitioned Palestine in 1947 to allow the creation of Israel, which the Israelis subsequently ignored and have since proceeded to invade and cross over international lines to give themselves a larger area to control. They have destroyed a nation and pushed people to live in a cramped open-air prison.

How is that not an occupation? How is that not reminiscent of ‘lebensraum’?




* Two hundred and ninety-eight lives were lost when a civilian airliner was shot down by a missile available to only the most advanced armies in the world and fired from an area controlled by Ukrainian rebels.

Such weapons had previously been used to shoot down Ukrainian military aircraft. Whether it was operated by insurgents, Russian “advisers”, or regular Russian troops, is almost immaterial. Putin and the Russian federation are ultimately responsible. And yet European leaders do little but wring their hands and complain about the chaotic crash scene investigation and the recovery of bodies.

No one expects European leaders to go to war with a nuclear power like Russia over such a provocation – but the repeated mincing of words by Obama and his NATO allies is embarrassing.

Well might Putin obfuscate until the outcry dies down. But isn’t it about time that the EU took some concerted action? How about a strategic EU energy policy and plan to reduce all dependence on Russian gas within 10 years to zero by building a European super-grid powered from largely sustainable sources?

Irish and Scottish wind, wave and tidal turbines allied to eastern European and Mediterranean solar farms could make up a huge amount of the energy deficit created by a progressive reduction in Russian energy imports, whilst at the same time providing a much-needed boost to investment across the EU.




* Irony always springs to mind when I hear RTE personnel asking questions about high salaries, especially when you know that the questioners are themselves earning very high salaries – in some cases, for the minimum of time and effort.

It would be in the public interest to have the whole organisation opened up to scrutiny by the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee on behalf of the licence payer.

One of the questions that could be put to them would be on their position as an equal opportunity employer. And the whole area of expenditure and expenses as well as salaries and fees.




* Angela Kerins says she suffered an ‘ordeal’ under questioning by PAC. Poor baby. After eight years of living it large as a very well paid CEO, she had to answer some questions about the taxpayers’ money.

I’ve spent 12 years working for Rehab, on about 15pc of what she earned annually.

Am I asked regularly what I am doing? Of course.

Do I have to constantly prove my effectiveness? Yes.

Is my spending planned, checked and verified? All the time.

Like me, Angela knows the work, knows the sector, knows who the money is coming from and exactly what will be asked of her.

Like any member of staff, she had a spotlight shone on her – at the intensity suitable for her abilities and paygrade. Unlike the thousands still working (and working very well) for Rehab, she chose to resign.



Irish Independent


July 22, 2014

22July2014 Shopping

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. A very dry day

ScrabbleIwins, but gets under 400. perhaps Marywill win tomorrow.


Baroness Miller of Hendon – obituary

Baroness Miller of Hendon was a cosmetics entrepreneur who launched an ill-starred bid to become Tory Mayor of London

Doreen Miller entering the race for Conservative London mayoral candidate in 1999

Doreen Miller entering the race for Conservative London mayoral candidate in 1999 Photo: PA

5:54PM BST 21 Jul 2014


Baroness Miller of Hendon, who has died aged 81, was a north London housewife who founded the International Beauty Club, offering mail-order cosmetics to the woman of the 1970s, attracting 750,000 subscribers and their cash.

Doreen Miller became a campaigner for more women in Parliament after nearly 100 Conservative constituencies turned her down. Created a life peer by John Major, she served as a government whip and Opposition spokesman in the Lords.

She is best remembered latterly for her attempt in 1999 to become the first Conservative candidate for Mayor of London after Jeffrey Archer had withdrawn. Launching her “Call Me Doreen” campaign, backed by senior women in the party machine and with Lord Harris of Peckham providing the funding, she was soon tipped as favourite for the Tory nomination. But the wheels came off when she was interviewed on the Today programme, and party members instead chose Steve Norris, who months later was defeated by Ken Livingstone.

She was a 37-year-old solicitor’s wife and magistrate with three young sons when she decided to start her own business. She took a beauty course, surveyed the market and launched the International Beauty Club on Valentine’s Day 1972.

The concept was simple: “lucky dips” of quality cosmetics at half the shop price. Doreen Miller – described as “breathlessly cheerful” by an interviewer – bought 50,000 of four manufacturers’ products and produced her first kit of perfume sprays, make-up and false eyelashes, importing 2½ tons of pink polyester wrapping.

The Club’s first advertisement was placed in a magazine that never appeared owing to the disruptions caused by that winter’s miners’ strike. She faced far worse, however, when armed robbers stormed her hairdressers while she was having a trim. Despite having a gun held to her head for 30 minutes, a computer breakdown at her office compelled her to go in to work once she had been freed. Only once the problem had been resolved did she return home to have hysterics.

Despite these obstacles to success, thousands of letters were soon pouring in for the first beauty kit, priced at £1 plus postage. Two months later came the lemon-coloured second kit, at £2. By that October the Club had 42,000 members, mostly young marrieds.

Many letters also sought advice, so Doreen Miller became a beauty agony aunt. “So many women think they have something ghastly wrong with their nose or their mouth or something,” she said. “I seem someone indeterminate to write to.”

In 1975 she distilled this experience into a book, Let’s Make Up! Asserting that women use make-up “to make themselves feel good”, she gave such valuable hints as “how to make up while your egg is boiling”, “how to look good at bedtime” and “the right way to apply foundation”. The best thing for a woman’s skin, she insisted, was soap and water.

Doreen Miller extended her Club to Germany and Australia, and by 1979 it was turning a profit of £500,000. She remained its chairman and managing director until 1988.

Doreen Miller in her office in 1999 (STEPHEN HIRD)

She was born Doreen Feldman on June 13 1933, the daughter of Bernard Feldman, who had a furniture business. After Brondesbury and Kilburn high school she read Law at LSE and qualified as a solicitor (also gaining an MA from Hull University).

With her business up and running, she became an active Conservative, and in 1981 – two years into Margaret Thatcher’s premiership – was put on the candidates’ list, declaring: “I’m too old to fight and lose just for the experience.” Over five years she tried for 91 seats, being given an interview at just nine.

Tory selection committees, she said, believed women should not try for Parliament until they had raised their families, then ruled them out as too old. Having a woman as party leader did not necessarily help, either.

She became chairman and executive director of the 300 Group, an all-party body campaigning for more women MPs, and chairman of the Women Into Public Life Campaign.

From 1993 she was the Conservatives’ Greater London chairman. Major rewarded her that year with a life peerage, and in 1994 appointed her a Baroness in Waiting (government whip). She spoke for the government on health, education and employment, and welcomed President and Mrs Clinton at Heathrow on behalf of the Queen.

In opposition from 1997, Lady Miller continued as a whip. Two years later William Hague made her a spokesman on trade and industry, a portfolio she held until 2006.

She was appointed MBE in 1989.

Doreen Feldman married, in 1955, Henry Miller, with whom she had three sons.

Baroness Miller of Hendon, born June 13 1933, died June 21 2014


The fact that 52 schools and colleges in England failed to enter any pupils for science and maths A-levels in 2012-13 is incredibly worrying and raises serious questions (Report, 18 July). We know that employers look for graduates with the analytical and problem-solving skills these subjects instil. One million new science, technology and engineering professionals will be required in the UK by 2020, yet there is a persistent dearth of young people taking these qualifications after the age of 16. Why aren’t these schools encouraging students to take subjects that will expand their career opportunities?

The government is right to encourage more young people to take science and mathematics past the age of 16. In fact, in a recent Royal Society report, Vision for Science and Mathematics Education, we go further by calling for both subjects to be compulsory to age 18, as part of a broad baccalaureate-style qualification. This reform is absolutely vital to the UK’s future prosperity.

Schools which have low numbers of students taking mathematics and science A-levels must look closely at their culture. There is evidence that girls are still deterred from studying these qualifications because they feel they are somehow masculine or unfeminine. Teachers should ensure they promote these subjects to all, and young people understand the importance of being mathematically and scientifically literate to their future lives and employment prospects.
Professor Julia Higgins
Chair, Royal Society education committee

•  How depressing to read that Nick Gibb, the education minister, thinks the best reason to study maths and science is because the subjects have “the highest earnings potential”. When I was a secondary school teacher, I taught physics, and my A-level students studied it, for many reasons: its excitement and topicality; the intellectual stimulation; the sheer beauty of some of the underlying mathematics; its usefulness to humanity; and the fun of getting to grips with how the world works.

What never crossed my mind – and I doubt it crossed my pupils’ minds either – was that the main reason for studying it was a selfish financial one. That one ministerial comment sums up so much of what has gone wrong – and not only with our education system.
Albert Beale

•  The unequal opportunity for sixth-formers to study A-level subjects stems from the Department for Education’s own policies to politically and financially buttress small, inefficient school sixth forms.

Analysis of Department for Education performance tables by the Sixth Form Colleges Association shows that the 1,807 schools entering students for A-level in 2010 offered 15 subjects on average each, while the 92 sixth-form colleges analysed offered an average of 36. A quarter of school sixths offered fewer than 10 subjects, 10% fewer than five, and only 10% offered more than 24.

Subject by subject, 90% of colleges entered students for chemistry, compared with 72% of school sixths; for biology the figures were 92% and 80% respectively, for further maths 80% and 28.7%, for computer science 64% and 7.4%.

Research this year by London Economics demonstrated that the average expenditure on educating a pupil in an academy sixth form is £6,345; in a maintained-school sixth form £5,693; and in a sixth-form college £4,560. This includes subsidies to schools denied to colleges: differential insurance rates; VAT rebates and higher capital funding rates. Heads can also cross-subsidise from their 11-16 to their 16-18 cohorts to afford the status of having a sixth form.

Despite this, the sixth-form college sector remains relatively highly successful: London Economics also calculated the cost to the taxpayer per Ucas point score per entry between providers, and concluded that even the most cost-effective schools significantly underperform in relation to the least cost-effective of colleges.
Simon Hinks

• On Friday, the announcement by schools minister David Laws (Schools to get an extra £390m, 18 July) was presented as new money.

Even the guarded welcome by the leaders of headteachers’ unions concentrated on general underfunding, and in particular the impact of pension fund increases on schools as employers.

The projected increase to schools in the 69 local authorities described as “lowest funded” does indeed in some areas arise from a historic anomaly stemming from the choice of local taxpayers to prefer lower tax bills to higher spending on education. The increase also arises in part from the recognition that deep-seated deprivation in the urban core required additional government grant.

This re-announcement – increasing the previous £350m by £40m – misses the point by a mile and hides the fundamental fact that this “new” money is nothing of the sort. It is a redistribution of funding top-sliced from the schools budget as a whole from April next year.

All state-funded schools (except new free schools) will have their budgets frozen in cash terms, not for inflation. In other words, every other school in the country will be paying the price for the substantial uplift in areas such as Cambridgeshire and Surrey.
David Blunkett MP
Labour, Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough

Demo threat to U2 Glastonbury show

Liam Jonson, Roxanne Wood, Aisha Ali and Steve Taylor, members of Art Uncut, at the Glastonbury festival in 2011, where they protested against the tax arrangements of Bono’s band U2. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

It is unfortunate that the letter from Graca Machel to David Cameron on the UN development goals and climate change is jointly signed by, among others, Bono of U2 (Report, 18 July). Delivering tax justice would do more to tackle global poverty than probably any other single policy change, something the millennium development goals failed to address. Bono needs to decide: is he a champion of world development or a tax dodger? He cannot be both, and there’ll be no global movement to unite development, climate and human rights if that movement has Bono the tax dodger as a figurehead.
Paul Brannen MEP
Labour, North East England

• Our children, aged seven and five came up with a novel suggestion for how London Zoo could deal with unruly visitors at its Friday-night parties (Billed as ‘London’s wildest night out’ – but not much fun for the tigers and penguins, 19 July): a new enclosure showcasing “naughty grown-ups who hurt the animals”.
Tanveer Ahmed and Nick Mahony

• The really shocking fact is that Isabella Acevedo was paid only £30 for four hours of cleaning and ironing in central London (Former immigration minister’s Colombian cleaner arrested at wedding, 19 July). We pay £10 an hour in Sheffield.
Jo Tomalin

• The political demise of Dominic Grieve (Editorial, 16 July) reminds me of his father Percy’s first attempt to stand for parliament in 1962. Posters demanding “Grieve for Lincoln” were soon removed, but he still lost to Labour’s Dick Taverne.
Mike Broadbent

• James Garner’s wonderful acting career (Obituary, 21 July) included his part as God in the animation “God, the Devil and Bob”, from NBC in 2000, much loved by my then teenage family. I sadly texted them: “God is dead”.
Sally Hotson
Forres, Moray

• When I was working in Nigeria, someone not coming into the office the day after tomorrow was described as “Not on seat next tomorrow” (Could the oxt-word improve your social life, G2, 21 July).
Brian Lloyd
Bradley, Staffordshire

Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart: Celt or Anglo-Saxon? Photograph: Cinetext/PARAMOUNT/Allstar Picture Library

I’m surprised that someone of the intellect and depth of Madeleine Bunting should play the “British” card in this way (My British identity is in Scotland’s hands now, 21 July). Regardless of how the vote goes on 18 September, we will all remain British. “British” is geographical, in the same way as citizens of Sweden, Denmark and Norway are Scandinavian, and those in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are Baltic. Many of us in Scotland do not have a problem with voting yes while retaining a “British identity”.

We are not therefore opting out of being British, we simply want to opt out of a UK lorded over by a government in Westminster that rides roughshod over the democratic process, regardless of the concerns of the people of these islands. In Scotland, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change this for the better for all of us, to galvanise the way the entire island of Britain (yes, Britain) is governed. If yes does prevail, then perhaps the remaining parts of the UK will follow suit, and demand – at the very least – more devolution of power to the other countries and regions of Britain.
Anne Roberts
Isle of Arran

• Madeleine Bunting is against Scottish independence because the union boosts her sense of Britishness. There is something more important, the abject poverty of thousands of Scots. This will continue as long as Scotland is ruled by the House of Commons, where all the major parties have enforced massive welfare cuts. An independent Scotland offers the chance of greater equality and policies which respect not condemn the poor. That is more important than a sense of Britishness.
Bob Holman

• ”Scotland is a Celtic nation”, writes Madeleine Bunting. Not so. The vast majority of Scots are Anglo-Saxons.

The bulk of Scots have always spoken English and have borne Saxon names. Edinburgh means Edin’s Burgh. The Celts were driven into the highlands and the far west. They have been a small minority throughout Scotland’s history.
Emo Williams
Shere, Surrey

•  Madeleine Bunting says that “Britishness” is important to her. Emailing a friend about her article, I was surprised to find that “Britishness” was not recognised by my spellchecker, which offered the alternatives “brutishness” or “boorishness.” I tried another couple of words. “Scottishness” does not exist, though “Cattiness” and “Skittishness” are possible alternatives. Only “Englishness” passed muster without quibble. Out of the mouths of babes and spellcheckers.
Frank McCallum

• Irvine Welsh is right to say that neither Ireland nor the US shows signs of wanting to return to rule by the UK (Independence day?, Review, 19 July). But is he also suggesting there is no corruption or elitism in either of those countries? Is he also suggesting that Scotland would be completely free of elites and corruption once independent?
Philip Clayton

• If there is a possibility of splitting the United Kingdom, why is that a matter for one partner only?
Jon Chamberlain
Faringdon, Oxfordshire

Michael Gove: responsible for ‘a self-perpetuating and potentially unrepresentative system of overseeing the running of schools’. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Trojan Horse invokes another animal metaphor: chickens coming home to roost (Fears of Islamophobia gave activists free rein, 19 July). The neoliberal urge to “free schools from local authority control” has been shown to have its limitations. More than 20,000 public institutions need more checks and balances and, crucially, some kind of local oversight if pupils are to make academic and social progress. The rush towards more academies and free schools has demonstrated the limitations to a “do your own thing” strategy.

That Ofsted appears not to be as independent as it needs to be is a further problem. Its change of criteria in the case of Birmingham schools over a period of a couple of months makes its monitoring and quality assurance role less secure. The vast majority of schools welcome expert evaluation, and they do not see this as a challenge to their proper autonomy in curricular and pedagogic matters. There are also larger questions about a need for rigorous evidence as opposed to hearsay and extremist tendencies in faith schools more generally. Over to you, Nicky Morgan.
Professor Margaret Maden

• Laura McInerney’s account of her attempts to get documents about applications to setting up “free” schools into the public realm (Education, 15 July) raises questions of academic freedom, public policy, political accountability, and public trust. Her application was ultimately rejected because of the costs of “redacting” the documents. There can be no valid reason for redacting. Those who apply to set up free schools should be willing to make public who they are, what proposals they advance, and what reasons they give for the public to pay for their projects. Officials must make their decisions and the reasoning for them public so that we can know what free schools are and what purposes they are intended to serve. They should have provided Ms McInerney with the documents and not wasted expensive time and public money to avoid doing so.
Gavin Williams

• Your article about the investigation into schools in Birmingham (‘Trojan Horse’ schools condemned, 18 July) illustrates the risk to accountability associated with Michael Gove‘s academy programme, accountability being to the secretary of state – which “can almost amount to benign neglect”. Another of Gove’s reforms extends the same risk to all schools. From September all maintained schools in England will be required to reconstitute their governing bodies in a way that gives a small core of governors the opportunity to appoint directly a majority of governors. This creates a self-perpetuating and potentially unrepresentative system of overseeing the running of schools, leaving all schools at risk. The opportunity for local councils to appoint governors is severely restricted. There are significantly reduced requirements for parent governors and staff governors, and the governors can decide who else to appoint and how many, without reference to anyone else.

This is fundamentally undemocratic and an inappropriate way to provide oversight of the spending of the huge amount of public money provided to schools. Further scandals are certain in the future as a result of this reform, by which time Michael Gove will have probably disappeared from the public eye, but I hope people remember who was responsible for this ill-thought-out policy and that with luck it will have been repealed before too much goes wrong.
Peter Kayes
School governor, Reading

With reference to your editorial (Public services: shipshape no more, 21 July), in late 2001 I was a civil servant in London and was tasked with running an expensive and very urgent project for the Home Office. Over the Christmas break I wrote the operational requirement and, with the technical expert, the specification. From immediately after the new year I chaired meetings to drive the project forward, regularly saying that I would take responsibility for this and that when doubts were expressed,  and by May 2002 the multimillion-pound project was complete and successful.

About three years later, walking around Whitehall, I was hailed by a Defra PhD who had been on the project team who told me that he had never enjoyed his time in the civil service as much as over that period. Long before, I had remarked to my boss that I was amazed that being a civil servant could be such fun. “Ah,” he replied, “but you are being a naval officer.” He was right.
Richard Davey
Commander, Royal Navy (retired), Middle Lambrook, Somerset

Three cheers for Rosie Boycott and her “flagship project” to improve the nation’s diet (Food is a drug, and we have to learn to say no, 18 July). Most important, from my point of view, is tackling the problem in schools.

As a teacher-trainer in the 1980s and 90s, visiting students on teaching practice, I travelled round East and West Sussex in despair as I watched school lunches being replaced by banger and burger bars. “Why?” I asked one headteacher when I had the chance. “The children prefer them,” came the disingenuous reply. My attempt to discuss educational values was quickly curtailed. Like the Coca-Cola machines installed in the canteens, it was, and still is, about profit-making.

The legacy of Thatcher’s Britain. “Society”, which simply didn’t exist then, now faces the wider problems in the nation’s health that Rosie Boycott lists in her article. Tackling schools seems more than timely. We have a new minister for education who must support this too.
Dr Lisa Dart
Eastbourne, East Sussex

• Excellent article by Rosie Boycott about our food culture: “the environment in which we make food choices … is extremely unhealthy”.

You made your own contribution in your Cook section the following day by providing us with six recipes for “guilty pleasures” including “an unadulterated cheese and carb fest” and “very naughty chocolate chip-cookie ice-cream sandwich”.

With an eye to the future, the same section’s “10 best kids recipes” feature (“where healthy meets delicious”?) included seven that relied on cream, sugar, butter, chocolate and maple syrup. As Rosie said, “the odds are stacked against us”.
John Roberts
Dursley, Gloucestershire


As bad as events in Gaza are, more worrying are events in Iraq, where Isis terrorists have started a campaign of ethnic cleansing (editorial, 21 July) in what’s left of the state of Iraq after British and US forces bombed the place into the dark ages, bringing “democracy” to the region in 2003.

Are politicians so stupid that they believe it is some imam in a British mosque that is radicalising Muslim youngsters to join the fight, rather than the politicians’ indifference to the children of Gaza.

I suppose some would describe me as a white member of the British middle class, yet even my children and I have been radicalised by recent events in Gaza, just as I would have been, had Britain started to bomb border towns in the Republic of Ireland in response to IRA atrocities, on the basis of intelligence reports that IRA operatives were living in these towns.

The apparently “civilised” world would not have accepted this form of collective punishment on mostly white Irish Catholics, yet in Gaza its seen as Israel defending itself.

Anyone with even a little knowledge should know by now that the first step to a prosperous peaceful world and Middle East is not just a ceasefire in Gaza; it is justice for the Palestinians. Benjamin Netanyahu should be careful of what he wishes for: he may end up with Isis if Palestinians become disillusioned with Hamas, their democratically elected representatives.

Richard Lanigan, Thames Ditton,  Surrey


Instead of giving us the familiar Israeli homilies  about terrorism and human shields in the Gaza conflict, the Israeli ambassador might have used the space you gave him (16 July) to elucidate for us the recent remarks of his Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a press conference on 11 July,  according to The Times of Israel, he said: “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: There cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan” – that is, the West Bank.

This has been the consensus for many years of Israel’s governing elite. They will never allow a Palestinian state which denies it this control. They will allow bantustans, but only to prevent a Palestinian numerical majority in Israel.  Such a deal would be unacceptable to any Palestinian leader, from Hamas to Abbas. Israel, furthermore, has no intention of allowing a two-state solution, which Obama has called for.

Because of this unacknowledged but fundamental spoiler, “the Middle East peace process may well be the most spectacular deception in modern diplomatic history,” wrote Henry Siegman, formerly head of the American Jewish Congress. He quotes Moshe Dayan; “The question is not ‘What is the solution?’ but ‘How do we live without a solution?’ ”

In this context Israel is asking for the impossible – for Palestine’s acquiescence in its dismemberment.

James Fox, London W10


Jacob Amir (Letters, 12 July) is correct in asserting that the Zionist leadership accepted the UN Partition Plan of 1947, which provided for both a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine. He omits to say, however, that they did so only formally, that is, quite cynically, as a platform for creating the more homogenous Jewish state they desired.

Those at the UN who drafted the Partition Plan knew that it was only a paper solution. A Jewish state in any meaningful sense of the term could not be established in an area where Jews were barely 50 per cent of the population. In other words, ethnic cleansing was necessary.

Dr Steve Cox, York


As someone who 50 years ago worked as a volunteer in an Israeli kibbutz, it pains me to condemn Israel now for its grotesquely disproportionate response to the Hamas rocket attacks. Why, though, are western governments not as outraged by the current abuses in Gaza as the Secretary General of the United Nations?

We know that US politicians’ careers would be at risk from the Zionist lobby were they to advocate sanctions against Israel, and no doubt in the UK it is also felt that criticism of Israel might be associated with antisemitism, with disastrous political fall-out.

Surely there must come a point, however, when purely domestic political considerations are outweighed by the need to speak truth to power, and sanction a country, even an erstwhile ally, whose policies are so inimical to those we claim to espouse?

Christopher Martin, Bristol


Every day we hear about the troubles in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel and Palestine. What I never hear anything about is the achievements of Tony Blair in his role as Middle East envoy

Sarah Pegg, Seaford, East Sussex


Great video, but what about the singing?

Intrigued by Paul Lester’s article “Move over, Rihanna: we’re about the music” (19 July) I checked out random examples of the first three artists mentioned.

One FKA twigs video had typical standard industry choreography of attractive dancers and immensely over-processed, auto-tuned singing.

If most recordings of this alleged “new generation of female R&B singers” are stripped bare of the barrage of artificial additives –  sound effects, echo, digital processing – there is very little substance left to remember.

To pass any test of time, as singers such as Big Mama Thornton, Janis Joplin, Ruth Brown, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston or Amy Winehouse have demonstrated, a great voice is the essential ingredient. Everything else is secondary.

Without an instantly recognisable superior vocal quality, all the industry can do is package an act’s products with gimmicks ranging from sex goddess to modest innocence icon, in the hope of capturing a temporary following in a chosen target audience.

Rol Grimm, London NW6


Patients who slip through the NHS net

Stan Brock’s mission to provide healthcare to some of the estimated 44 million Americans living without it is admirable, but let’s not forget that in the UK there’s also a large number of people going without even basic medical care (report, 14 July).

Ninety per cent of patients at the clinic we run for excluded people in east London have not had access to a doctor despite living here for many years. Extremely vulnerable people, such as undocumented migrants and trafficked and destitute people, are routinely denied healthcare in the UK or are simply too afraid to access it, including heavily pregnant women.

And with the Government tightening up its healthcare checks and charges we expect to see many, many more desperate people come through our doors.

Nick Harvey, Doctors of the World UK, London E14


Assisted dying and ‘doctors who kill’

George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, while saying he has changed his mind on assisted dying, does not mention the Hippocratic Oath, let alone its relevance to changes in the law.

Once the names of doctors who have issued patients with lethal drugs reach the public domain (advertised? leaked? rumoured?) confidence will erode, patients with multiple disabilities like me will run for cover under palliative care, “doctors who kill” will terminate their careers, and the NHS will wither.

The Rev Richard James, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Orthodox liturgy  at Canterbury

Your notice of the death of Metropolitan Volodymyr (7 July) failed to mention that in the early 1980s he was a member of the International Dialogue with the Anglicans. In 1982 he celebrated the Orthodox Divine Liturgy at the high altar in Canterbury Cathedral.

The Head Verger took the precaution of placing a large Bible on St Augustine’s Chair to ensure that no one but the Archbishop of Canterbury might sit there.

Archimandrite Ephrem Lash, London N7


Don’t forget to set the bar higher

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Schools, is quoted as asking local authorities: “Are you stepping up to the plate or have you thrown in the towel?”

Would he like schools to teach such mixed-metaphor madness to pupils? Can’t they just concentrate on leaving no stone unturned and punching above their weight?

Gyles Cooper, London N10


Reborn as a  better person?

If Kartar Uppal is right that humans are being continually reborn (letter, 19 July), wouldn’t you think there would be an improvement in human behaviour over the millennia, as more of us progress along the road to nirvana?

Carol Wilcox, Christchurch, Dorset


PA Archive

Last updated at 12:01AM, July 22 2014

Was Britain’s hasty withdrawal from its colonies a cause of conflicts today?

Sir, The rise of Al-Shabaab in Somalia after the UK and US-backed ousting of the Islamic Courts Union shows that Ed Husain is wrong to assume that supporting US military actions in foreign countries is the best way to guarantee our security (Opinion, July 19).

Haste and laziness cannot be blamed for the mess left behind by imperialists who had 300 years to “civilise” foreign societies. The building of nations and the establishment of a propitious environment for peace, justice and rule of law can only be carried out by indigenous people themselves, not imposed by outsiders.

Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell

Policy Centre for African Peoples

Sir, I congratulate Ed Husain on his review of trouble spots and Britain’s cowardice in facing up to its role in helping to solve political and socio-economic problems in Nigeria, Iraq, Pakistan and Palestine. He states that we disbanded our empire hurriedly, leaving badly drawn boundaries, without adequate planning or vision for potential future conflicts. However, in praising US world leadership in current conflicts, he fails to mention that it was the US which insisted on Britain disbanding its empire as quickly as possible. At that time empire was anathema to a
modern republic born out of revolution — notwithstanding that US economic globalisation policy amounts to much the same dependence by many countries on a superpower.

At the end of the Second World War the UK’s economy was in ruins, and we were badly in need of US support. It was made clear to us that the condition for this was immediate disbandment of the British Empire. Our survival and recovery at that time depended on doing as we were told.

Dr Patrick Magee


Sir, Ed Husain takes a blinkered view of Britain’s role in the world seeing it ineffective but for its links with the US. America is a good friend but we cannot rely on future administrations sharing our thinking and giving support when it is needed.

Britain’s future in foreign affairs lies in greater cooperation with France and Germany and eventually in persuading all 28 nations of the EU that one collective foreign policy is needed.

A Europe which knows its collective mind will be more effective and a better friend to the US than a subservient one.

Lawrence Fullick

Bournemouth, Dorset

Sir, The violence in Nigeria is caused by Boko Haram and its desire to browbeat, by means of threats, torture and death, all non-Muslims (and liberally minded Muslims) into its intolerant, puritanical version of Islam, not by the creation of an independent Nigeria by the British over half a century ago.

As for Ed Husain’s suggestion that if the UK abandons “its place at the table [of active involvement in international politics] we will be in American eyes an Italy or a Spain or an Austria, a has-been.”

What’s wrong with that? Seems eminently enviable to me. Ed Husain states that if we move away from the US we will “diminish to a third-rate power almost overnight”. I thought we were there already; and, if our standing is so dependent on the US, it’s better not to stand at all.

Father Julian G Shurgold

Sutton, Surrey

The shooting down on the Malaysian airliner may have been a mistake but why were such weapons in militia hands?

Sir, I sense that the Western media might be jumping to conclusions and allowing these to distort its coverage of the downing of MH17.

I am sure that nobody intended to shoot down a large civilian airliner full of innocent people from countries nowhere near the “war” zone. It is clear that the incident was a tragic accident or mistake — and we must not forget that the US made a similar mistake in the past.

However, I do wonder how the ignorant militias fighting in eastern Ukraine seem to have at their disposal the sophisticated weaponry capable of bringing down a flight such as MH17. That is the issue, and we should resolve this before insulting President Putin so roundly. Of course Putin does have form, but he must not be regarded as guilty until he is proven to be so. Accordingly, independent, international experts must be allowed immediate access to the crash site to gather substantive evidence and so begin to establish the real facts.

Captain Tim Hosker, RN (ret’d)

Rugby, Warks

Sir, The downing of the Malaysian civilian airliner in eastern Ukraine is an atrocity. President Obama needs international support to enforce a lasting ceasefire and a permanent political solution to the political crisis in Ukraine. A civil war that runs so far out of control as to kill 300 individuals from neutral countries is a war atrocity beyond the moral compass of the entire watching world. Lawyers for bereaved families should be moving at the fastest pace to seek both legal and financial redress with the expectation of receiving several million pounds per individual killed. To achieve less than all this would be to allow one of the worst examples of collateral war damage to pass without appropriate redress.

Elizabeth Oakley

Dursley, Glos

Such schemes may not be ideal but the alternative is traffic-choked city centres

Sir, Professor Parkhurst’s research into the “green credentials” of park-and-ride sites misses the point (“Park-and-ride is not so green as shoppers drive the extra miles”, July 19).

Cambridge, like many cities that have successfully introduced park-and-ride, does not have the space in the town centre for the 5,000 parking spaces provided at the five park-and-ride sites at its edge. Without park-and-ride the city would have been strangled economically, with shops and businesses forced to go elsewhere — potentially into what is green belt land outside the city.

By concentrating shopping in one centre we reduced the prospect of people travelling far further to out of town shopping centres, where there is often no reasonable public transport with a resultant negative impact on the environment.

The Guided Busway, which Professor Parkhurst praises and which I pioneered, takes the concept of park-and-ride a stage farther, by intercepting passengers at an earlier point in their journey to Cambridge, taking yet more cars off the road.

Shona Johnstone

Cabinet member for Environment and Transport, Cambridgeshire county council (1998-2005)

Building executive mansions is no help to young people who can afford only flats and studio apartments

Sir, Tim Montgomerie (Thunderer, July 21) calls for the building of 250,000 houses a year but neglects to address the type of housing which should be built. In rural west Oxforshire we are threatened with some 20,000 new houses. However, most housing being built in this area boasts “4/5 bedroom, 3x bathroom detached luxury houses coming soon”.

How will this help young people get onto the housing ladder? Where are the blocks of studio apartments, one and two-bedroom flats, semi-detached houses? Why are shop owners not encouraged to let the space above their premises; why not insist that empty houses are inhabited, not held as investments?

Many things could and should be done before a vast building fest which benefits only the developers.

Sarah Coe

Faringdon, Oxon

If groundstaff brush the pitch too often they will reduce the spinners’ chances of getting some action

Sir, At the England v India Test match the ground staff have been brushing the pitch during the drinks and other breaks in play, rather than only between innings. Has the law been changed?

Wear and tear of the surface, as the match proceeds, gives the bowler assistance, of which they get so little now that pitches are covered and protected from the weather. Spin bowlers, of whom there are so few, relish a bit of dust.

Brian O’Gorman

Chichester , W Sussex


Iraq’s national museum, among many institutions looted or set ablaze in the weeks after Saddam fell Photo: AP

6:58AM BST 21 Jul 2014


SIR – In 1954, the international community agreed the Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, following the devastating impact of the Second World War on some of Europe’s most valued heritage, including paintings by Van Gogh and Caravaggio; the St Petersburg amber room; and architecture such as St Mary’s Church, Lübeck, and the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino.

After the looting in 2003 of museums and archaeological sites in Iraq, Britain announced its intention to ratify the convention. A decade later, we have yet to honour this commitment.

Britain is the most significant worldwide military power not to have ratified the convention, the United States having done so in 2009.

In 2008 a draft Cultural Property Protection (Armed Conflict) Bill passed through parliamentary scrutiny with only minor revisions suggested. Ministers of successive governments have pledged their commitment to ratification as soon as parliamentary time can be found.

This commitment is to be applauded, but continuing failure to ratify is mystifying. It has all-party support. Protecting cultural property in conflict is seen by the Armed Forces as a “force multiplier” – something that makes their job easier.

The latest Queen’s Speech left ample parliamentary time free to pass additional legislation in the current session. So the Government should delay no further in introducing the necessary legislation to ratify this important treaty.

Earl of Clancarty
London SW1

Professor Peter Stone
Secretary General of the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield; Head of the School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University

Sir Laurie Magnus
Chairman English Heritage

Sir Simon Jenkins
Chairman National Trust

Lucy Worsley
Chief curator Historic Royal Palaces

Michael Palin

David Anderson
President, Museums Association; Director General, National Museums Wales

Dan Snow
President, Council for British Archaeology

Amanda Foreman

Dame Rosemary Cramp
Professor Emeritus, Durham University

Sir Adam Roberts
Senior Research Fellow in International Relations, Oxford University

Dame Fiona Reynolds
Master, Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn
Chairman, all-party parliamentary archaeology group

Lady Antonia Fraser

Sir Barry Cunliffe

And another thing: the usual tavern types as depicted by Ferdinand van Kessel (1648-96)  Photo: bridgeman.com

6:59AM BST 21 Jul 2014


SIR – Some people have been saying whom they don’t want in pubs – noisy children, for example, or karaoke singers – without listing the typical customers they do want in a “real” pub.

There should be one grumpy old man in the corner moaning about modern beer and saying he wouldn’t drink such fizz, until someone offers to buy him a pint.

There’s the guy in the blazer reminiscing about the “kites” they flew in the big one, even though he’s only 46, and two old dears in the snug with a milk stout, telling each other how naughty they were as girls, both secretly in love with the man in the blazer.

Add a Scotsman, a denizen of the village for 20 years but still regarded as an outsider, even when he swears under his breath at any non-regular, or the bore who reminds everyone at every opportunity that he “knows what’s what” because he used to be… (fill in the blank, as applicable). Then there is the pedant who invariably points out the landlord’s spelling mistakes on the chalked menu board.

Ah, how we miss those people.

Martin Billingham
London SE6

The crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Grabovo in Ukraine Photo: AP

7:00AM BST 21 Jul 2014


SIR – With the grotesque tragedy of MH17 comes confirmation that the world is both dangerous and unpredictable. On Saturday, of all days, the Russian government announced that it was increasing its military spending from 17.5 per cent to 21 per cent of its budget by 2017.

George Osborne, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, has been responsible for imposing drastic reductions to the size and effectiveness of our Armed Forces. The prime responsibility of the Prime Minister and the Government is the defence of the realm.

In view of the very dangerous situation in which we find ourselves, these cuts now look profoundly inappropriate.

John Nickell-Lean
Malton, North Yorkshire

SIR – The Prime Minister calls for EU harmony in respect of tightened sanctions on Russia, in view of a certain lack of effective cooperation since the destruction of flight MH17. Will the supply of French-built helicopter carriers to the Russian navy be included or excluded?

Anthony R Baines
Broom, Bedfordshire

SIR – Peter Foster poses today’s most pressing question of how to respond to the new world disorder. The Middle East is dissolving into a region-wide Sunni-Shia civil war, China daily jousts at sea with its neighbours, Afghanistan’s future is uncertain, Iraq fragments, Islamist insurgencies multiply in Africa, Libya slides to failed statehood and a Hindu nationalist PM is elected in nuclear-armed India.

Dan Hodges argues that soft power without hard power is a euphemism for no power. And, in the Business section, Jeremy Warner points out the dependency of our world-class aerospace industry on British military spending.

May I suggest what seems to be the logical deduction from all three of these analyses? Britain should be restoring its Armed Forces, not cutting them.

Vice Admiral John McAnally
National President
The Royal Naval Association
Old Portsmouth, Hampshire

SIR – Ideas and ideology drive modern conflict, not nation states or power blocs. So when Dan Hodgesdismisses soft power, he forgets that aggressive ideas and isolationist ideologies are the weapons of Britain’s main modern adversaries.

The patient work of attracting young minds around the world to our open culture and to Britain’s education and opportunities – as exemplified by the BBC World Service and the British Council – is a wise investment in our long-term national security.

Military force will always be a necessary evil. And we should be proud that Britain’s own young minds have been prepared to fight on many fronts for what Britain stands for over the past two decades. But there is no point winning the ground war if we give up the battle of ideas.

Sir Vernon Ellis
Chairman, British Council

SIR – The Prime Minister reacts with horror to the downing of MH17. But the culprits care not a jot. For years, politicians have run down our Armed Forces, replacing them with ring-fenced overseas aid and “soft power” – another term for appeasement. The bully will always adopt Lenin’s maxim: “Probe with a bayonet. If you meet steel, stop. If you meet mush, push.”

Captain Michael David
Osmington, Dorset

SIR – Another search for a “black box” flight recorder. Isn’t it time this was replaced by something that streams data continuously back to a central station?

Michael Keene
Winchester, Hampshire

Irish Times:

A chara, – Aidan Doyle, in his rather downbeat article “Irish language is not a part of us – it must be learned” (July 19th), is quite wrong in implying that because the Irish language is not derived from our DNA that it somehow lacks authenticity in our lives. Everything that gives us distinctiveness as a community – our sense of ourselves in the world, our understanding of history, our literature, art, music dance, games and, of course, our languages – is learned. Some of this is learned informally from our family, some is learned at school and some by osmosis through our daily involvements in social life.

What Dr Doyle’s article doesn’t acknowledge is that much progress has been made in making these learning processes more effective since the early faltering steps to establish Irish educationally in the early 1900s. Thanks to the gaelscoil movement, for example, we have now a growing number of our young citizens who are used to communicating with each other in Irish and who frequently do. Much has been achieved; there is, of course still more to do.

Finally, Dr Doyle’s sniffily pedantic dismissal of the slogan “Níos deirge, níos feirge” misses the point. It is clearly ungrammatical, but no Irish speaker will fail to understand the point it is making and its cheeky incorrectness will probably make it more memorable. – Bua is beannacht,



Bóthar Dhún an Chreagáin,


A chara, – Both Stephen Collins and Aidan Doyle have missed the point in their “analysis” on the Irish language (Opinion & Analysis, 19ú Iúil). “Preserving” the language is of little interest to those of us who live through Irish and “taking a long hard look at Article 8” (journalistic speak for watering it down it) will only widen the chasm between State policy and linguistic rights.

With the huge growth of Irish speakers (outside of Gaeltacht areas) and the introduction of the Official Languages Act since 2003 the Irish State has repeatedly stalled at the crossroads. Instead of moving backwards, let us go forward by embracing Irish speakers in our dealings with the State. Why not change our recruitment policies (when embargoes are lifted) and begin recruiting say one fluent Irish speaker out of every three at customer service grades “agus le beart de réir briathair tabharfar na cearta céanna don nGaeilgeoir is don mBéarlóir”. Rather than looking at Article 8, maybe the new Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs could take a long hard look at our recruitment policy. – Is mise,


Baile an Fheirtéaraigh,

Trá Lí,

Co Ciarraí

A Chara, – Michael Collins told Piaras Béaslaí in 1918: “If we get safely through this business, I intend to give up everything else and retire to an Irish-speaking district, and stay there until I have a complete mastery of Irish. I don’t think it will take me long.”

Those who claim to be his greatest admirers show little inclination to emulate their hero. Enda Kenny has a poor record in Gaeltacht affairs. While in opposition, he appointed Michael Ring and Frank Feighan as Gaeltacht spokepersons, neither of whom spoke Irish. He expects the unfortunate Joe Mc Hugh to master Irish after a few weeks in the Naoinain Mhóra (High Babies) of Gleann Columcille. It is not acceptable.

An Taoiseach should request Dinny Mc Ginley to continue as Aire na Gaeltachta until such time as Joe Mc Hugh convinces a nominated group of native speakers of Irish that he is able to converse normally with them and run his department with ease and competence through the medium of Irish. He can then have pride in his portfolio, and urge us as much as he likes to join him in his personal journey. – Beir beannacht,



Bothar Bhinn Eadair,

Baile Atha Cliath 5

Sir, – No one is seriously suggesting that the Minister of Health should be a doctor, the Minister for Agriculture a vet and so forth (Brendan O’Donnell, July 19th). Advanced oral and literacy skills, however, are without question a necessary minimum requirement for all government Ministers.

The Minister charged with Gaeltacht Affairs is in charge of a bilingual portfolio and should therefore be highly competent in both Irish and English. Fluency in conversational Irish will be of limited benefit to one charged with drafting, reading and reviewing complex language-policy documents. To expect any individual to acquaint himself with a new ministerial portfolio and to simultaneously acquire advanced reading, writing and oral language proficiency skills, is not only unrealistic but also grossly unfair on the individual concerned.

Those who have been most critical of this ministerial appointment on linguistic grounds are those most keenly aware of the mammoth linguistic task being asked of the new junior Minister. They are not, as Leo Roche suggests (July 19th), “a minority group” happily oblivious to the difficulties faced by language-learners. – Yours, etc,


Palmyra Park,

Galway City

Sir, – The furore about the appointment of a Minister for the Gaeltacht who is not fluent in Irish is entirely consistent with the inability of Oireachtas members to conduct all business in our first official language. It reflects the reality of the way business is conducted in both the Seanad and Dáil, with translators permanently on hand in case a cúpla focal are used (another great example of our hypocrisy) .

Fluency in spoken and written Irish is not a requirement for our Oireachtas, yet it is imposed by that very body for public service appointments. On the bright side , I expect that the Minister(s) will have an allowance to cover the cost of the courses and the course providers will get some business. I wonder how much money is paid by us to fund Irish language courses for those in all public, State or semi-State jobs? – Yours, etc,



Co Cork

Sir, – Perhaps part of the reason that John Redmond does not occupy the same public space as figures like O’Connell and Parnell (“Redmond’s role in story of State should be recognised”, July 21st) is because people have a sense that he actually had a chance to listen to and try to address the genuine concerns unionists had about home rule – how it would affect their businesses, their access to UK markets and their religious freedoms.

It can be argued that his failure to take that chance sowed the seeds for partition and a century of sectarian violence, the consequences of which we still face today, when we tiptoe around certain Sinn Féin figures afraid to call them out on their past in case they revert to that past – which they deny having.

With hindsight, we can now see that all of the Unionist fears for what Home Rule would mean in reality, and worse, were proven to be correct. When we did finally achieve independence, we promptly handed control of the new state’s decision-making processes to the Catholic Church and replaced what was meant to be a democracy with a particularly vicious form of Catholic theocracy.

If Redmond had made more effort, then perhaps the island could have had the best of both traditions in one state instead of the worst of both traditions in two states. Of course it is ironic that the use of the term Redmondite, usually levelled at Fine Gael in particular, but also at anyone who doesn’t worship at the altar of 1916, is meant as a more refined insult than the more blunt “West Brit”, when in fact Redmond proved himself to have been even more weak-kneed towards the Catholic Church than even John A Costello, the personification of a Free Stater. – Yours, etc,


Canary Wharf,


Sir, – There is much truth in Ronan O’Brien’s article on John Redmond. The Irish Parliamentary Party occupies an unfortunate position historically, having been so comprehensively defeated in the 1918 election. It is worth bearing in mind, however, one of the reasons for that comprehensive defeat. The party had been a vocal supporter of a deeply unpopular and highly bloody European conflict, a conflict that had just killed more Irish people than all of the political strife this island was to endure in the 20th century would kill. And at the end of it all it seemed like there was not much to show for it.

The Ulster Unionists had just made a similar sacrifice, for opposite reasons. So by all means let the work of Redmond and the IPP be recognised and indeed honoured in this State. But it should be remembered that the war effort was a logical outcome of the home rule policy. Redmond’s great act of conciliation cost many Irish lives. The IPP’s strong support for recruitment was to influence many who joined up after August 1914. The cost of Redmond’s policy is something his professed admirers do not seem to want to acknowledge. – Yours, etc,


Millmount Grove,

Dublin 14

Sir, – Breda O’Brien expresses concern that internet sites like Tumblr and Spiked, where young people may express any ideas they wish but where a few opinion leaders set the tone, “may be socialising young people into near-absolute conformity when they have not yet developed sufficient maturity to realise what is happening” (Opinion & Analysis, July 19th).

Has not Ms O’Brien just described what religion has been doing in this country for centuries? The Catholic Church has been trying to socialise young people into near-absolute conformity with religious doctrines, particularly on sexual matters, when they have not yet developed sufficient maturity to realise what is happening.

This effort at programming begins in primary schools and has always been led by “a few opinion leaders” – clergy, nuns, bishops and popes, who “set the tone” by endeavouring to instil in students an “informed conscience”, that is a conscience which is not their own.

Ms O’Brien fears that internet free speech is leading many younger people into attemptingto close down all kinds of “respectful debate”.

But what is “respectful debate”? Much of what the Catholic Church teaches is not “respectful” of women, or of gay people. The debate this organisation engages in poses as being respectful, but it is essentially abusive. One cannot engage in respectful debate when respect for the full equality of the other is lacking. An abuser is not in a position to demand respect.

At least these internet sites which Ms O’Brien fears do not set themselves up as morally infallible, nor do they impose silence on those who disagree with them.

And therefore young people have a better chance of personal growth and of developing a conscience which has not been interfered with by an all-knowing hierarchy. Yours, etc,


Whitechurch Road,


A chara, – Miriam Lord (July 18th) and Stephen Collins (July 19th) miss the point about the Dáil standing in solidarity with citizens in the Middle East and Gaza. Or, I suspect, they ignore the point.

They focus on Sinn Féin’s and my role in this in a disparaging way. Ms Lord zeroes in on Mary Lou McDonald, while Mr Collins accuses Sinn Féin of “bullying” other TDs.

I like to believe that the TDs who stood are glad that they did. Is it not a positive that the Dáil stood united, even for a minute, for once, for something that represents the feeling of a huge number of Irish people – that is peace in the Middle East? Our Government should be doing more about this. Maybe your correspondents could focus on that.

The citizens of Gaza may hear of the Irish parliament extending solidarity to them. That also would be a good thing. Of course that news was not broadcast on RTÉ television. I wonder why not. Perhaps the tenor of Ms Lord’s and Mr Collins’s commentary contains the answer to that. – Le meas,


Leinster House,

Dublin 2

Sir, – At last an Irish Times journalist has used the word “ruthless” when writing on the issue of Gaza (Inside Politics, July 19th). It is all the more disappointing then that Stephen Collins was referring to Sinn Féin’s call to the Dáil to stand with the people of Gaza, rather than the actions of the Israeli military. Could your esteemed political correspondent possibly be missing the bigger picture? – Yours, etc,



Co Limerick

Sir, – Responsibility for the downed Malaysian airliner is quite clear. It lies with those who organised and supported the illegal coup in Ukraine. This group of course includes the United States and the European Union.

Before this coup, Ukraine was a peaceful country with a democratically elected government. There was no danger in its air corridors. The post-coup election was obviously not free and fair. How can one have a free and fair election in a country where there is a civil war?

The current government, supported by the West, has chosen the path of all-out war against its own people in the east of the country. In war zones, sadly such tragedies happen.

The foreign ministers of the EU might reflect on how they have taken the wrong option at every stage of this crisis. They might also ask themselves if it is in the interest of Europe to follow United States foreign policy so slavishly. – Yours, etc,


Grange Court,


Sir, – Having just returned from Bavaria, where they have got things right in that there is virtually no rural housing to be found outside villages and towns, Diarmuid Ó Grada’s article, “Problems of rural Ireland require immediate action” ( July 11th) reminded me of the depressing situation here.

Dr Ó Grada’s succinct summary of the win/win situation that would come from locating people in villages and towns requires little elaboration. But in addition to the ways forward outlined by him might I suggest that other steps that need to be taken could include the removal of the powers of councillors to rezone land, the implementation of the Kenny report to make land available on the outskirts of villages and towns and a reappraisal of the rural transport scheme, which has the unfortunate effect of perpetuating rural isolation?

I don’t believe any real effort has been made to engage with prospective homeowners to put to them the many advantages of village living. One-off rural housing “policy” is developer/farmer driven. Its all about selling sites at inflated prices. There has to be a better way. – Yours, etc,


Butterfield Drive,

Dublin 14

Sir, – Una Mullally’s article (Opinion & Analysis, July 21st) on the Seanad’s “image problem” is typical of the dishonest discourse that was rife in the debate during the referendum on its abolition.

To state that the “weird limbo” in which the Seanad now exists can be dealt with by “the public having a proper hand in the election of its members”, as Una Mullally does, is to be out of touch with reality.

“Reforming” the Seanad, by having it directly elected and giving it more power, is just creating another Dáil. We already have one of those.

The Seanad is not just a “weird limbo”. It is an expensive, powerless, talking shop for the insider elite. It is not needed. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,


Sir, – It is a strange, nay, an absurd world. On July 17th, William Reville (“Smoking ban proposal by British body unwise”) informed us that 7,000 people die annually from smoking-related diseases in Ireland. He also pointed out that our health services will spend €23 billion over the next decade on tobacco-related diseases.

Now it is reported (“Tobacco giants may sue on plain packaging”, Business & Innovation, July 21st) that “Ireland could have to pay hundreds of millions in compensation to tobacco giants if plain packaging is introduced”. – Yours, etc,


Linden Place,

Grove Avenue,


Sir, – Why does Lucy Kellaway (“Why are we more vocal about loo rolls than our jobs?”, July 21st) think that being treated “like factory workers” by management is a negative?

As a student I worked on the factory floor, where managers treated me with respect, dignity and concern for my welfare – which was far from my experience as a hospital doctor.– Yours, etc,


Cnoc an Stollaire,

Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Donegal

Irish Independent:

* After spending hours over a number of days in front of a computer, I finally got a pair of tickets for the final night of the Garth Brooks’s Croke Park concerts. We, the desperately seeking ticket people, were the ones who initially set in train the demand for a minimum of five concerts.

I and thousands of people like me have given a lifetime of service to the GAA and other organisations that rely heavily on voluntary endeavour.

Without us there would be no Croke Park or GAA. Some of us have been attending games and other events in Croke Park long before some residents lived there. Over the years, we have spent money inside and outside the stadium. We have patronised shops, hostelries, pubs, eating houses and street traders.

We have paid for our parking and brought great life and vibrancy to the area during the playing season. When it came to the Brooks concerts no one even considered consulting us. All we got was a type of glib remark such as: “I feel sorry for all the people who bought tickets.”

And then there were the condescending remarks from some in the media as though we were some type of country & western simpletons.

We have been either ignored or treated with contempt, if not disdain, and not allowed to play in our play area.

I don’t remember any vociferous complaints, or money being lodged in a person’s account to take out a High Court injunction, with respect to the intensification in the use of Croke Park when permission was given for its use to play rugby and soccer matches when the then Lansdowne Road stadium was being developed.

And as far as I know, Croke Park did not specifically have planning permission to host rugby and soccer games.

No condescending or patronising remarks with respect to rugby or soccer supporters from commentators.

Only reverse snobbery as though rugby supporters would have to endure a part of Dublin that would not be their normal play and socialising ground.




* The exclusion of women from serious ministry in the Catholic Church is mirrored in the way the Government shows shameless bias in favour of men in the selection of TDs for significant posts.

One can only hope that the Taoiseach will shy away from the cynical approach of David Cameron in promoting women in order to enhance his election prospects.

Women do not exist to fulfil the purposes of men. One of the central principles of our moral lives is that of respect for persons.

This implies we live in relationship with others whose purposes and perception we take into our view.

The role of women has sometimes been reduced to that of incubators for the offspring of men; whilst men lived free and easy lives, women were condemned to relentless domesticity.

When women are promoted within government, there is more comment in the media about what they wear than about what they think.

I was privileged to attend a service recently, presided over by a female bishop from America. She preached an outstanding sermon. Sadly, the main comment after the service was about the hat she was wearing. Some found the mitre rather odd sitting on a woman’s head, as if God designed the mitre with men in mind.

If we discriminate against the inclusion of women in the church other than in relation to roles where they are subservient to men, the least we can expect are relevant reasons for doing so. The silliest reasons given include: ‘Jesus was a man'; ‘Women are not leaders by nature'; ‘Jesus chose men to lead his ministry’.

The history of the church has not been a vast preparation for the way things are.

No account of the way things are can ground a judgment about how they ought to be. It is not our common humanity, but some taken-for-granted inherited ordinance, that grounds the inequitable treatment of women in the church.




* It has been suggested that we do away with the Angelus on RTE on the grounds that ‘this is not a Catholic country’. There are at least four good reasons to disagree.

In the most recent Census over 80pc of respondents – given the choice of putting ‘no religion’ – instead put ‘Catholic’.

That figure takes into account both Ireland’s multicultural makeup and immigration over the past decade.

In any normal, healthy democracy, acknowledgement is given to the wishes of the majority. The Angelus lasts about one minute – or 0.00069pc of a 24-hour day.

An insistence that over 80pc of the population in a democracy ought not to be allowed even 0.00069pc of the nation’s daily broadcasting output – and which they support with their licence fee – ought to raise eyebrows in alarm at the motivation and logical capabilities of those making such demands.

The Angelus in its current form has been drained of almost all religious content to the point where it is more of a secular ‘pause for reflection’ than a call to prayer. That even this short, watered-down ‘pause for reflection’ still manages to offend the strident secularist ought to raise eyebrows in alarm at the kind of intolerant society such people wish to create.

Insofar as it still has any religious overtones, the Angelus serves a clear, meaningful function – a call to prayer: to reflect on our relationship with God and our ultimate purpose here.

A secular call to ‘pause for reflection’ on the contrary, would be an empty shell. A pause to ‘reflect’ on what? The worst outcome would be that RTE give in to a minority of ill-thought-out calls to banish something that a majority would like to keep; and which represents a more tolerant and pluralistic society, contrary to claims of so-called secularists.




* With the cabinet reshuffle done, the Government can reset itself by focusing on the radical reform of what it called “an outdated system of administration”.

An easy win would be to “publish who does what and to whom they are answerable” as recommended by the Independent Panel on the Strengthening Civil Service Accountability and Performance.

This would not need new legislation, as the 1997 Freedom of Information Act already provides a good basis for immediate action on this.

This act already makes it mandatory to publish certain information about public bodies.

Such information includes “the names and designations of the members of staff of that body responsible” for carrying out the arrangements needed to implement Freedom of Information.

These arrangements include the publication of information regarding rules and practices in relation to certain decisions by public bodies.

Furthermore, the 1997 act also specifies the publication of a “general description of its structure and organisation, functions, powers and duties, any services it provides for the public and the procedures it provides for the public”.

Last year, the Government proposed to drop these measures in the new Freedom of Information Bill.

It remains to be seen how serious the reshaped Government is about resetting its commitment to serious reform.



Irish Independent


July 21, 2014

21July2014 Sorting

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. A very damp day

ScrabbleIwins, but gets under 400. perhaps Marywill win tomorrow.


Escapologist known as ‘the British Houdini’ whose flaming rope act left audiences aghast

The escapologist Alan Alan

Alan Alan giving a pre-escape interview in 1957

5:41PM BST 19 Jul 2014


ALAN ALAN, who has died aged 87, was an escapologist famous for his “burning rope routine” and known as “the British Houdini”.

Alan devised his trademark burning-rope act in the early Fifties, when he was just starting out in the escapology game. It involved him being trussed up in a straitjacket, or cords, or chains, and dangled on a petrol-soaked rope upside-down from a crane — most famously high above the Thames. The rope would then be lit.

Audiences watched aghast as Alan wriggled and wormed his way out of his shackles before the rope gave way to the flames. A section of his rope was wrapped in thick wadding, the extra fibre adding valuable time for him to get free.

“Alan issues a challenge,” declared a Pathé reporter watching the act in London in 1950. “He undertakes to free himself in less time than it takes to tie him. Just to make it more interesting he does it 60ft in the air. Easy as falling off a log, he says, but give us the log to fall off any time.”

The act was a particularly perilous reinvention of a routine pioneered by Houdini, and nearly got Alan killed on several occasions. In 1950, for example, he came crashing down on to the stage of the Pavilion Theatre in Liverpool when the rope snapped. But as his fame spread across the world, he only heightened the dangers. Before long his hands were clasped in Darby cuffs and he was left hanging over cages of lions or rows of pointed swords.

Alan Rabinowitz was born on November 30 1926. In boyhood he was awestruck by the famous Danish showman, Dante the Magician, and in his teenage years he developed a magic and escape stage act. Alan was then taken on tour by the promoter Reggie Dennis (who gave him the stage name Alan Alan) and played alongside comedy and novelty acts including Morecambe and Wise and a young Des O’Connor.

Alan began his career as a serious escapologist much as he carried it through: by trying to upstage Houdini. In 1949, he staged “Houdini II Buried Alive”. Performed for Pathé News, Alan replicated a 1915 stunt in which Houdini had been buried alive in a grave, leaving precious little time to dig himself out. Houdini had lost consciousness as his hands broke the surface. Alan did not even get that far; his assistants had compacted the earth too tightly and he had to be dug out only moments from death. The rolling cameras and resulting column inches, however, helped to make his name.

Throughout his career Alan refined, adapted and repeated his flaming rope act, playing arenas, theatres and circuses. He also staged open-air crowd-pleasers for the passing public: in 1978 he swung and squirmed 100ft above the Thames as amazed drivers passed over Tower Bridge.

In 1959, Alan entertained prisoners at London’s Wormwood Scrubs prison — demonstrating how to get out of a set of handcuffs, slip a knot and wriggle free from chains. “It all depends on applying the knowledge at the right time,” he said. “When I do my work I have the right kind of incentive — cash. I can stay cool. A prisoner would be too emotional when it came to the point.”

In the late Fifties he managed Tommy Cooper’s magic shop in London, where the comedian’s wife Gwen was the driving force. “Gwen, big woman, prone to picture hats,” recalled Alan. “How she managed to keep Tommy under control – after a few drinks he must have been a hell of a handful.”

In later life, Alan became the proprietor, with Joe Elman, of his own shop — the Magic Spot in Southampton Row. A treasure trove of tricks and props, its walls were stacked with row upon row of wooden drawers, each one carrying its own curious contents: stink bombs, jet-flying cigarettes, palming coins, linking rings, flashing bow ties, glowing fangs, rocket balloons and sneezing powder. It was a dusty palace of peculiarities in which Alan, dapperly decked out in a three-piece suit, enjoyed entertaining his customers.

One visitor, in 1984, was Michael Palin. “I stopped at Alan Alan’s Magic Shop in Southampton Row, where I was served by a small, neat, besuited gentleman with an arrow through his head,” wrote Palin . “Quickly and efficiently he demonstrated an extraordinary variety of bangs, squirts, farts and electric shocks as if he were selling nothing more exciting than a coal scuttle. Little children watched in awe as their fathers idly toyed with a pack of sexy playing cards only to receive a sharp electric shock from the pack.”

Alan also mentored a number of aspiring magicians, including a young Michael Vincent, who would later become a Magic Circle Magician of the Year. “There really hasn’t been an escapologist who had a flair for the dramatics like Houdini other than Alan. In some cases I think Alan had the edge,” stated Vincent.

In addition to his great escapes, Alan also invented a number of clever close-up tricks, including the “Decimated Coin” — in which a coin appears to shatter into pieces — and the “Sharpshooter” card effect, in which a gunshot appears to hit a chosen card from a pack. In the late 1970s he returned to the rope, guest-starring on The David Copperfield Show. Copperfield described him as “someone I’ve idolised since I was a boy”.

By this stage Alan was a small, wiry man with a frenetic “cheeky chappy” stage persona that reminded many of the actor Norman Wisdom. While the burly American security guards on Copperfield’s stage towered over him, winding chains around his frame, Alan joked, hopped and spun around them.

In 1983 he played Houdini in the television film Parade of Stars, a re-creation of the vaudeville circuit of the early 20th century.

Magic’s modern visage — with its slick television personalities and camera tricks — sometimes baffled him. When David Blaine staged his own Tower Bridge stunt in 2003 — hanging 30ft in the air in a Plexiglas box for 44 days without food or water, Alan was sceptical. “I give him 10 days,” said Alan. “The box will mysteriously fall into the river and it will appear that Blaine has been swept away with the tide. He will turn up triumphantly half an hour later in Hyde Park.” In a rather more prosaic climax, a weakened and thin Blaine simply emerged from his stretch and was driven off to hospital.

The Magic Spot closed in 1996. In 2006 Alan was awarded the Maskelyn Award by the Magic Circle for services to British magic.

Alan Alan never married. He is survived by a brother.

Alan Alan, born November 30 1926, died July 4 2014


The Guardian has a long tradition of defending the rights of individual citizens within a free society, especially, in the last year, the right of privacy in an environment of unauthorised surveillance. I was appalled, therefore, by the editorial in response to Lord Falconer’s bill on assisted dying (18 July). First, the law against killing someone is not absolute; killing is frequently a duty for those in the forces and sometimes for the police. More important, in pontificating on the “moral landscape”, it asserts that “better end-of -life care can help”. Not always. For those with pancreatic cancer, for example, the terminal stages can reach beyond the effectiveness of even the finest palliative care and impose suffering which would be illegal in a laboratory rat, and would lead to disciplinary action if permitted by a vet.

The wishes of the electorate have long been clear: 70%-80% have shown in a succession of polls that they wish for the law to change with appropriate safeguards. Most tellingly, last year’s YouGov poll (Report, 1 May 2013) showed that even among religious believers (including Anglicans, Catholics, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Methodists and Pentecostals), a majority favoured such a change. It is not simply life which needs to be cherished, even when its quality has vanished, but the twice blessed quality of mercy.
Professor AR Michell
Upper Cleveley, Oxfordshire

• How is it that none of the people who have lately objected so eloquently in your columns to assisted dying seems interested in knowing what happens in the – now quite numerous – places where it has already been introduced? In Switzerland or Oregon, for instance, does this change actually have the fearful consequences for personal relations they predict? If it does, what methods have been found best for limiting those consequences?

This issue really is not a straightforward yes-or-no question, not a matter of creating “a new moral landscape”. It calls for a sensitive response to a real clash of values. The moral landscape actually changes all the time in any case simply because of changes in the world – such as shifts in modern medicine – and because we come to think differently about conflicts of ideals.

It is quite true that we have lately come to value freedom of choice very highly, often too highly in relation to other values. But there are surely situations where that freedom does rightly take precedence, cases where there is something odious about being controlled by other people – something that would not be tolerated in other aspects of modern life. These cases are few and, I think, easily recognised. I have seen reports that, once assisted dying is allowed, demand for it goes down rather then up. It was the freedom that mattered. Terry Pratchett has said that, if he knew he could go when he wanted to, he might be willing to put up with things a great deal longer. Is this actually an unreasonable demand?
Mary Midgley
Newcastle upon Tyne

• The law against killing someone is not absolute. We kill in wars, we’ve killed witches and slaves; humans have forever found a reason to end the lives of others. And where are the statistics to support the view that most of us do not live or die alone? Where is it written that the value of life is something that cannot “be assessed independently of family and friends, or of wider society”? Of course it can.

The importance of the right to choose to die, within the stringent rules proposed by this bill, deserves a rational response, not a leader laced with false and illogical arguments. Also, if the law changes, no one who is terminally ill will be forced to die: all it will offer is the right to choose so to do. Thus, persons such as this leader writer will never be affected by this possible change in the law, at all.
Carmen Callil

•  The Guardian has come out against assisted dying using the argument, among others, that so few people benefit in Oregon (a steady rate of 0.2% of deaths) that it is not worth “the moral change”. At the same time other opponents argue that this will lead to an ever increasing number of assisted deaths. Both arguments can’t be correct. In fact, neither is. The rate may be a steady 0.2% in Oregon, where the same law has been in place for 17 years, but many more than 0.2% benefit. One in 50 people there talk to their doctors about the possibility, but only 1 in 500 take advantage of it. That means thousands of patients and their families are comforted by the existence of an option that only a very few actually need. There is no evidence after 17 years that palliative care has suffered, nor that vulnerable people are at risk, and the Oregon Hospice Association withdrew its legal challenge to the legislation.

We have 17 years of experience in Oregon to inform this debate. Those facing bad deaths, and despite reassurances some still do, deserve legislation based on facts not supposition.
Dr Jacky Davis

• Giles Fraser doesn’t like people making choices. Two weeks ago (Loose canon, 5 July), his argument against assisted dying was that capitalism hinges on choice, so choice is obviously a bad thing, so people must not be allowed to choose assisted dying. His latest argument (Loose canon, 19 July) is that many valuable things in life – “perhaps the most important” – such as being loved, are not things that we can control by choice, so we shouldn’t try “to limit our exposure to that which is beyond our control”, so we should not choose to avoid, by an assisted death, whatever onslaughts the process of dying may throw at us.

One would have thought that the rational response to the fact that many good things are not directly things we can choose to enjoy was to cultivate patience and fortitude in regard to the things where no choice of ours could ever alter the situation, while not disdaining choice where it can save us from suffering that serves no good purpose whatever.

He should remember, too, that to be denied a choice in matters where choice could affect the outcome is usually to be subject to – perhaps to be the victim of – someone else’s choice. If it continues to be the case that some people die in unassuageable pain and distress because they are not allowed to choose assisted dying, Giles Fraser can reflect that this may be in part because he chose to oppose assisted dying. His choice is more equal than other people’s.
Paul Brownsey
Lecturer in philosophy (retired), Glasgow University

• What wise and meaningful words from Giles Fraser on Saturday on the subject of assisted dying. Without a hint of tendentious hectoring, he highlights the terrifying inadequacies of the desire for autonomy, for control over our own destinies – the fact that it does away with our need for love.
Joe Unsworth
Newcastle upon Tyne

• Giles Fraser explains that part of the religious resistance to assisted dying is based on romantic love of the greater being that comes to affirm your worth when you feel unworthy of such love. Much like the unconditional love of a mother for a newborn. When I gave birth under “induced” circumstances I was terrified and took out a stopwatch when the team snipped my waters. “Why?” the registrar asked. “Because I want to see how well psychological time matches real time under stress,” I said. The real reason was that I needed to feel some control of the process – as part of the team not the autonomous leader. The team took this in good part and it worked, we were all the happier for it.

Having the means to end my dying in extreme pain and discomfort does not put me in control (if that were the case I would choose to return to full, healthy life) but allows me to be part of the process of my own death. To refuse this is to reduce the sufferer to the status of a victim under torture, with loved ones helpless bystanders.
Pat McKenna

• I fail to be convinced by John Inge’s argument (A precious end to life, 18 July) and am slightly uneasy as to how he presents it. As with all the opponents of the bill on assisted dying, he is concerned “for the weakest and most vulnerable in our society”. John Inge’s wife was in terrible pain and could have easily been made to feel a burden to him and others and chosen to end her life. It could equally be argued, however, that the “weakest and most vulnerable” could be coerced into living for the sake of others when they want to die a peaceful, painless death.

As for his point that, had assisted dying been legal, they “might never have had the opportunity to enjoy the precious months together”, I would suggest that as in most cases we do not know when the “last few months” will be, we should endeavour to make every moments of our lives with our loved ones precious.
Christiane Goaziou
Wotton Under Edge, Gloucestershire

• John Inge argues that had assisted dying been legal when his wife, Denise, was diagnosed with cancer or suffering the dreadful effects of her chemo it would have been “tempting” for him to suggest that it would be “for the best” and this would have deprived his wife of the “precious time” allowed by a short period of respite before her death.

Perhaps, but does this that mean others in a similar situation should be denied the right to make this choice: a choice to enabling “a precious end to life” by a different route. For some, assisted dying will provide an opportunity to end their lives in the way they wish, a little prematurely certainly, but peacefully, avoiding severe mental and physical deterioration and the accompanying agonies. Knowing assisted dying is a choice they can make may indeed enable the terminally ill to “live more freely and fully” during the final days of their lives, as did Denise.

John Inge’s wife found a way through suffering and dying that worked well for her but this does not give him the right to deny others a different path.
Ann Hislop

In 1983 a Korean Airlines flight from New York City to Seoul via Anchorage was shot down. Although many suspected the Soviet Union, it initially denied any knowledge of the incident. Eight years later, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world finally learned about the tampering and suppressing of evidence by the Soviet Union that delayed a thorough investigation into the crash.

While there has as yet been no concrete evidence to reveal whom to blame for the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 (Murder in the sky: missile destroys jet and kills 298, 18 July), one thing remains certain. The bereaved deserve an immediate, transparent investigation followed by appropriate compensation. Demanding answers from Russia is one thing; answering the call from the bereaved for a full investigation of the tragedy is another. Responding to the latter is justice best served.
Siyoung Choi
Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea

• Whoever was responsible for “mistakenly” shooting down the Malaysian airliner, they are unlikely to share the fate of Will Rogers III, captain of the USS Vincennes when it shot down an Iranian Airbus in 1988 because it was thought to be a warplane. Rogers faced no court martial, the deaths of hundreds go unanswered by justice, and Rogers was given a medal.
Alistair Richardson

• I wonder if Vladimir Putin is still the world leader that Nigel Farage admires most (Report, 31 March)?
David Walker

The Imperial War Museum has always questioned the impact of war and the £40m refurbishment programme is to be welcomed (Museum’s new look at a century of warfare, 17 July). However, readers may not be aware that as IWM London reopens, the country’s only peace museum is in serious financial difficulty. Ironically we currently have more work with schools, colleges and community groups than we can cope with and have developed a business plan which will enable us to be self-financing within three years, but in the meantime we need £60,000 if we are to continue our work beyond the autumn. Readers can find out more at peacemuseum.org.uk.
David Kennedy
Trustee, The Peace Museum, Bradford

• John Marjoram (Letters, 17 July) seeks more detailed poll reporting as “helpful and for political transparency”. Personally I would prefer to see the findings accompanied by the margin of error, which might assist us in putting in perspective the conclusions drawn from them by “experts”.
George Redman

• A tunnel has a beginning and an end. Why is it necessary for Israel to launch a ground offensive into densely populated Gaza (Report, 18 July) to destroy the tunnels when the other end is on the Israeli side?
Mary Wightman
Carnforth, Lancashire

• Surely, on the day after his departure as education secretary, the squeezy stress figure of Michael Gove should have been reduced in price (Advert on page 21, G2, 16 July)?
Jennifer Henley

Yvonne Robert’s article “A feminist party? Perfect. Provided it didn’t last too long“, (Comment), chimed with a relatively recent experience in Northern Ireland – the North of Ireland, or whatever you call it yourself. Indeed I am surprised that she failed to reference the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition. As some of your readers might remember, this was a political coalition (deliberately not named as a party) that drew its membership from women from both nationalist/republican and unionist/loyalist traditions. It modelled its intent by having a leadership-share arrangement; one from each of the main communal backgrounds. The coalition knew that it would never hold the position as minister of agriculture (or indeed any other ministry), so rather than having detailed policies on suckling calves it worked to three principles – social/political inclusion, equality and human rights. All the political positions that were adopted – many of them controversial – were discussed and filtered through the lens of these principles.

The coalition made a contribution to political debate over a 10-year period before its graceful exit back into civil society activism. There is still much to be done to ensure the adequate and appropriate representation of women in electoral politics in both Northern Ireland and across the United Kingdom, but there are examples that politics can be done differently. A first step might be acknowledging the fact that politics is about more than the management of the state, it’s about meeting the challenge of developing a relationship between representative and participative democracy.

Avila Kilmurray


For many years I have been trying to make the point that women must have the bold support of male feminists. Male feminists such as myself have no wish to take over or dominate the debate; women know what is best for them. But it is absurd to think that the feminist movement is by its nature exclusively female.

I am not prepared simply to see women allowed into certain archaic male roles. We must have women determining the structures, ethics, and the very philosophy of our society, having been forcibly denied this for at least 30 centuries. We must fight this together – and conquer.

Ian Flintoff


As Yvonne Roberts so amply demonstrated, the problem with defining feminism as “individual flourishing” is that it takes no account of the cultural pervasiveness of gender stereotyping. You have only to look at the weekly macho ritual baying, personal attacks and point scoring of prime minister’s questions and the dismissive hostility to Harriet Harman’s serious analysis of the difficulties capable women have in political life. Why should it be considered such a compliment that the women likely to be promoted are not to be afraid to say testicles in the House of Commons? Do we promote men because they are unafraid of saying vagina on the floor of the House?

Of course we need more women in high political office to change political culture and make it more relevant to the issues faced by so many women on a daily basis. But we also need to change popular culture, including films, books, magazines and television, so the norm is not for women to be in support roles to their active men folk, attractive but essentially passive, or the exception who stands out as an oddity.

But bringing about changes in popular culture is as difficult as achieving true political change. I was a first-wave feminist when we had to fight such strange causes as to have our own chequebooks if we had a joint account with our husbands and not be dismissed as intellectually, emotionally and physically inferior. But it depresses me how little we have really achieved since the 1960s and 1970s. We need to celebrate women taking initiatives, taking charge and carrying out all types of roles without excluding men, but we also need to show women’s perspective on the world as opposed to just men’s.

Thirza Rochester

Exmouth, Devon


Zoë Harcombe states that the obesity epidemic started when we followed the “wrong” kind of dietary advice (“Gastric bands are as useful as a plaster on a severed artery”, 13 July). I think the simpler explanation is that more food is being processed, and more food is being offered where previously it wasn’t.

Councils and local authorities have allowed a proliferation of fast-food outlets, often within yards of each other. There used to be planning laws which stated that similar trades could not operate in close proximity, these have been so relaxed that there are often six or seven outlets within the same block, many remaining open all day capitalising on the after-school trade. Cinemas sell popcorn in buckets and sugary drinks by the litre. Most hospitals are replete with vending machines that offer nothing other than unhealthy snacks and drinks, often to patients who are there because of their intake of such.

There’ll be no change from the food manufacturers, the Government is too weak to enforce that and councils will keep allowing fast-food outlets, they want the business rates. But there can be very little sympathy for the NHS “struggling” with the increasing “obesity epidemic” when it’s contributing to it.

Geoff Hulme

Altrincham, Cheshire

Joan Smith’s rant about Harriet Harman’s failure to become deputy prime minister seems to assume women have the right to promotion simply because they are female (13 July). Harman claims victim status which is something we can all do. I would like to welcome you to the world of the single, white, middle-aged male where I get used as a cash cow to pay taxes for all the supposed hard-working families while getting very little in the way of benefits. Women still get their pensions earlier than men. Is Smith complaining about that? Are any women refusing to accept it early in solidarity with men?

Rob Edwards

Harrogate, Yorkshire

John Rentoul (13 July) thinks voters “will shy away from Miliband”. But people cast their ballot for the party rather than its leader, and those who’ve suffered from the Coalition’s austerity programme will want to see Cameron ousted. Rentoul says Neil Kinnock’s unpopularity in 1992 led to Labour’s defeat, but I recall Edward Heath beating Harold Wilson in 1970 and Margaret Thatcher defeating James Callaghan in 1979. Both times the outgoing prime ministers were more popular than their successors. Personality isn’t everything.

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

John Rentoul obviously thinks Miliband losing would be a good thing. I’m not sure who he envisages forming the next government, but if it is the likes of Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt and Chris Grayling, I can see why he keeps quiet.

Keith Flett

London N17

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TIPP) could give authorities the right to sue governments over laws designed to protect workers and the environment (“Protesters fear trade deal will ‘carve open’ health service” 13 July). An understanding of how this deal could violate human rights led the public out en-masse last weekend in opposition to the treaty.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb

Green Party Group, London Assembl


The relentless delegation of screening, examination and treatment is neither good practice nor a cost-effective use of resources

Sir, The role of high street health specialists — pharmacists, optometrists, dentists, hearing experts, chiropodists and others — should not be undervalued (letter, July 17). However, the relentless delegation of screening, examination and treatment that should be performed by doctors is neither good practice nor a cost-effective use of resources.

In my speciality, ophthalmology, outsourcing of care for several medical eye conditions to high street optometrists has resulted in fragmentation of care, and multiplication of demands with the net result that patients are visiting several places for the same condition and costing the NHS a lot more than should be the case.

Most worrying is the impact it is having on the training and experience of our junior doctors.

Nikhil Kaushik

Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon


Sir, Your correspondents hypothesise that other sources of healthcare advice in the community would redirect a proportion of less serious enquiries away from GPs and thereby relieve some of the pressures on the NHS.

There is no evidence to support this. The past 15 years have seen an explosion of information from the internet, and an increase in the involvement of pharmacies, walk-in-centres, paramedics and other health professionals. Consultation rates in GP surgeries have almost doubled over the same period.

There are three keys to understanding this. The first is that the buck stops with GPs. The information offered on every packet of medication, self-care advice sheet or guidance for non-doctors, will finish by suggesting that the GP should be contacted for advice in the event of any further questions. My emergency surgeries are full of people who have already sought advice from another source and are “just coming to double-check that this is correct”.

The second point is that information per se always raises more questions than it answers. For every explanation there is always a subsidiary point that might need to be clarified. Einstein noted that “as the circle of light increases, so does the circumference of darkness”.

The final point is that quicker access to services reduces rather than enhances the ability of people to learn about the natural history of minor complaints.

Paradoxically, if information and advice were less available, more people would realise that not only do most symptoms resolve on their own, but that waiting a little helps to differentiate accurately those rarer times when symptoms are more serious.

Our health service is overburdened by a toxic mixture of too much information, epidemic levels of health anxiety, and too great an intolerance of minor symptoms. More well-intentioned advice from other primary care agencies in the high street will only make things worse.

Dr Yealand Kalfayan


It is wasteful to use parliamentary time to enact legislation, which will not change the law, purely for public relations purposes

Sir, We are surprised by the Conservative Party’s proposal to legislate to reassert the power of the Queen in Parliament to legislate inconsistently with judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

Such legislation would have no legal effect, since the Queen in Parliament already has that power, and nothing enacted in national law can affect the responsibilities of the European Court of Human Rights in international law. It seems wasteful to use parliamentary time to enact legislation, which will not change the law, purely for public relations purposes.

Christine Bell, Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Edinburgh

John Bell, Professor of Law, University of Cambridge

Michael Freeman, Professor of English Law, University College London

Paul Craig, Professor in English Law, University of Oxford

Simon Deakin, Professor of Law, University of Cambridge

Mark Elliott, Reader in Public Law, University of Cambridge

David Feldman, Rouse Ball Professor of English Law, University of Cambridge

The PM’s choice of the eurosceptic Lord Hill for European Commissioner is, at best foolish and, at worst, intentionally hostile

Sir, The combination of power-grabbing manoeuvres by cabals in the European Parliament with (a) flight by the vast majority of members of the European Council from their treaty responsibilities as regards the choice of president of the European Commission, and the consequent appointment of someone almost universally regarded as not well suited for the job; (b) the highly politicised process of distribution of portfolios among a mini-assembly of nationally orientated commissioners, responsible for discharging key functions in the management of the Union originally regarded as necessitating a small, coherent collegiate body, owing no national or political allegiances; and (c) the prospect of persistent, debilitating tension between creditors and debtors in the Eurozone — this combination has all but deprived the institutions of the European Union of the capacity to chart a credible collective course, let alone to inspire confidence in their tenacity in pursuing it.

Sir Peter Marshall

London W8

Sir, The prime minister’s choice of the eurosceptic Lord Hill for Britain’s European Commissioner — our most eminent representational figure in the EU — is, at best foolish and, at worst, intentionally hostile. Moreover, why send a man who three weeks ago said he has no desire for the position? Surely Mr Cameron could have found somebody who wanted the job.

What the Commission really needs is someone who recognises the great social, economic and climate crises we are facing and is prepared to act for the people, not another business lobbyist prepared to act for David Cameron and the City of London.

Jean Lambert

Keith Taylor

Molly Scott Cato

Green MEPs for, respectively, London, South East and South West

It is a great disappointment that the new attorney general and solicitor general have such limited legal experience

Sir, Last week’s government changes showed that Mr Cameron is as cavalier in ignoring historic precedent as was Mr Blair. The law officers of the crown, the attorney general and the solicitor general, are the legal advisers to the government. As such they are always senior barristers of QC status.

Now we have two appointments not of QCs, but of junior members of the bar, who have both apparently had modest practices in the criminal courts. How are they to advise on the many questions of national and international law which arise? Furthermore the attorney general is by long tradition considered the leader of the English and Welsh bar. Are the ranks of QCs and other counsel of long experience in civil law expected to defer to this man?

It is bad enough to have a Lord Chancellor who is not a lawyer, but these new appointments are an insult to the legal profession.

Kenneth Stern

London W2

A mounted Gunner from The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery bore sweltering conditions with great poise and discipline

Sir, You published a photograph (July 18) of a “guardswoman” outside Buckingham Palace not welcoming the heat. She is not a guardswoman but a mounted Gunner from The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery which currently provides the Queen’s Life Guard. This soldier was on guard at Horse Guards in Whitehall. I saw her at about 2pm on the day of the photograph. Her poise and discipline were impeccable, as was that of her mount and her colleagues all of whom were plagued by armies of ghastly tourists, buzzing around them like flies. She may not have welcomed it, but she stuck it out like a soldier. Credit, I think where it is due.

Nick Bailey

Upton Lovell, Wilts


SIR – You report that government ministers are considering removing allowances from hundreds of thousands of benefit claimants if they refuse to undergo treatment for mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

The IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) programme was implemented to provide talking therapies to such individuals. However, budgetary constraints have resulted in a decidedly threadbare service.

Individuals may wait up to 18 months to see a counsellor or therapist, and to keep costs down the least expensive therapists (i.e. most inexperienced) are generally employed.

Therapy sessions are usually limited to a maximum of six, irrespective of whether or not the client has shown any improvement, and the measured outcomes are very poor to say the least. The work is also highly unpopular among the therapists,

and overworked GPs are largely unwilling to get involved.

Many working in the mental health field regard the IAPT initiative as a failed experiment. The idea that “hundreds of thousands” of benefit claimants will be able to find appropriate therapy in the current system is a complete fantasy.

Dr Tom Goodfellow
Pailton, Warwickshire

Prepared for Islamists

SIR – The inescapable logic that flows from Janet Daley’s article, reinforced by Martin Maloney’s letter in the same edition, is that the British mainland needs to be prepared – both in manpower and intelligence resources – for long-term internal security operations. These might be similar to those in Northern Ireland in the last quarter of the previous century, but on a significantly larger scale.

William Pender
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – Ron Kirby asks if we should “challenge anyone who looks at all suspicious” to show that we are not complacent about the terrorist threat. The answer to that has to be a resounding “No”.

Who are we, members of the general public, to decide what is “suspicious”, when those in authority seem to be even more clueless?

John Newbury
Warminster, Wiltshire

Are you being served?

SIR – I fully agree with the leaders from the drinks industry (Letters, July 13) who want Parliament to introduce a specific offence of assaulting a worker selling alcohol.

However, the industry should also acknowledge that drinkers can become impatient and frustrated if they think they are receiving poor service.

The major pub chains are usually the worst offenders. A large proportion of bar staff, including managers and supervisors, cannot pour a pint of Guinness, lose track of who is next and don’t prioritise properly between their various tasks. A better trained work force would improve the experience for everybody.

Clive Pilley
Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex

Online banking

SIR – Now we can do most of our banking without going near a branch, or having cash, chequebooks or even credit/debit cards to hand. Hallelujah!

But the central role that computers now play in banking brings with it new opportunities for criminal activity. The banking scene today resembles the Wild West. Cybercriminals are way ahead of the game, and there are more opportunities open to them than there ever were when Captain Mainwaring and his cohorts talked about requests for loans over coffee and biscuits.

Guy Parker
Braunton, Devon

SIR – The letter about the difficulties of elderly people with online banking brought to mind my grandmother, who in the early 20th century was a letter writer in the East End of London. The many elderly and less secularly educated Jews would bring letters from their families abroad to be read to them and ask for replies to be written (my grandmother could read and write seven languages). There was always a queue outside her house in Great Garden Street near Whitechapel.

There now appears to be a need for internet users who can deal with the financial matters that elderly people cannot manage. They would have to be licensed and approved by a suitable authority; or, they could be employed by the banks.

Julius Kosky
Edgware, Middlesex

High-flying women

SIR – The latter-day Amelia Earhart may be the first American woman to fly around the globe in a single-engine aircraft, but a British woman, Sheila Scott, flew around the world in a single-engine aircraft in 1966, covering about 31,000 miles in 189 hours.

Polly Vacher, another British woman, did something similar in 2001. Both these women also made epic solo flights via the poles, in aircraft much less sophisticated than today’s.

Professor Michael Bagshaw
Crowthorne, Berkshire

A Chalet fit for a spy

SIR – As an habitué of the Chalet restaurant from 1966 until its closing, I was fascinated to read of the proprietors’ famous clientele.

But I have read nowhere of their neighbours, the long-since vanished Morlands tobacconists, suppliers of my Gitanes in my youth, and purveyors of the handmade cigarettes with three gold bands to 007 James Bond. I am sure Mr Bond would have been a consumer of the Chalet’s excellent coffee to accompany his Turkish blend tobacco.

Simon Edsor
London SW1

We need a permanent infrastructure body

SIR – Britain has a poor record in identifying, planning and delivering major infrastructure projects. A protracted decision-making process has led to policy reversals in key areas such as energy and transport. We need to end this short-term, damaging culture, which undermines business investment in Britain.

We do not have the necessary machinery in place to anticipate the infrastructure we will need in the future. The forthcoming manifestos of the main political parties must address this, as forever playing catch-up does not support sustainable growth.

Britain needs a permanent, independent body tasked with looking at our future infrastructure requirements. This body would provide a trusted process through which political parties, the public, employers, unions and other stakeholders could propose solutions. It would also enable these proposals to be thoroughly assessed and analysed on a level, non-political, playing field.

Such a body must be accountable to Parliament, not to the Government, in order to provide the independence necessary to produce impartial analysis. However, the final decision on projects would only be taken by the government of the day.

Terry Scuoler
Chief Executive, EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation
Adam Marshall
Executive Director of Policy, British Chambers of Commerce
Frances O’Grady
General Secretary, TUC
John Holland-Kaye
Chief Executive, Heathrow Airport
Steven Costello
Director, Heathrow Hub
Stewart Wingate
Chief Executive, Gatwick Airport
Paul Kehoe
Chief Executive, Birmingham Airport
Darren Caplan
Chief Executive, Airport Operators Association
Geoff Dunning
Chief Executive, Road Haulage Association
Stephen Tetlow
Chief Executive, Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Rob Oliver
Chief Executive, Construction Equipment Association
Graeme Philp
Chief Executive, GAMBICA
Stuart Fell
Chairman, Metal Assemblies
Steve McQuillan
Chief Executive, Avingtrans
Colin Thornton
Managing Director, AIM Aviation

Comfort letters

SIR –Tony Blair’s approval of “comfort letters” to terrorist fugitives was a bribe, and an unnecessary one, as the IRA campaign of violence was winding down anyway.

For the sake of the victims of the bombings and shootings, the former prime minister should cease evading the issue and appear in person at Westminster to explain the secret part of the IRA deal still kept under wraps.

James Reiden
Pitlochry, Perthshire

Floating an idea

SIR – In the aircraft carrier “HMS White Elephant” (Christopher Booker, Opinion), we may have found a replacement for the Royal Yacht Britannia. Moored at Greenwich, surely little could be more British than a floating palace, with garden parties on the flight deck. She would last at least three reigns.

John Wilson
Billesdon, Leicestershire

Battersea’s ‘table legs’ need restoring, not replacing

The chimneys of Battersea Power Station are a crucial part of our Art Deco heritage

The noble chimneys of Battersea Power Station, south-west London, loom large over the Holi One festival

The noble chimneys of Battersea Power Station, south-west London, loom large over the Holi One festival  Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 20 Jul 2014


SIR – Against the wisdom of numerous experts in the history and conservation of architecture, and astonishingly for any lover of our Art Deco heritage, the world-famous chimneys of Battersea Power Station face imminent destruction at the hands of a Malaysian-backed developer.

A “muncher” is poised to gobble up Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s iconic table legs and convert them to landfill. Even worse, they are to be replaced, if money allows, by modern fakes, complete with hideous viewing platforms and tourist lifts.

This is surely the worst act of vandalism since the summary demolition of the Firestone factory in West London in 1980. Only in 2005, a site survey confirmed that the Battersea chimneys were essentially sound, excepting some minor water damage.

The four chimneys have stood nobly, without the merest hint of a wobble, for the best part of six decades. They deserve loving restoration, not destruction.

Dr Anthony Rodriguez
Staines-upon-Thames, Middlesex

SIR – I sincerely endorse your leading article on Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill.

Patients surprise doctors all the time in the course of their illnesses, and their suffering may well cloud their judgment even if they appear to be wholly rational. A patient once asked me to “give me something, you know” as she battled against breast cancer. I declined, and she lived in reasonable comfort for a further year or more with the aid of excellent palliative care. She later thanked me for not doing as she had requested.

This Bill proposes that two doctors should sign a pro forma which states their professional opinions that the patient requesting assisted suicide is in a clear state of mind and has six months or less to live. Which doctors? Presumably they might be the clinician responsible for caring for the patient and another not professionally involved, who would not know the patient, to avoid collusion. The action of the first betrays his position and the second can hardly assess a state of mind in just an inevitably brief interview.

A similar arrangement applies with the signing of forms legitimising abortion, and we all know how that system is abused. How does this Bill insure against an unscrupulous relative attempting to bribe the two doctors with promises of a share in an anticipated large inheritance?

It is very sad that a previous Archbishop of Canterbury should have given support to this Bill. The proposal is euthanasia by the back door, as your leading article suggests. Disregarding any religious beliefs, it is a dangerous precedent.

T A Harrison FRCS
Child Okeford, Dorset

SIR – My mother, aged 98, was saved by modern medicine only to waste away and die 14 months later, bedridden and in physical and mental pain. The same happened to my grandmother, aged 85, and to my great-grandmother.

I know that they did not wish to suffer in this way, and I don’t want to, either, when the time comes. Lord Falconer’s Bill does not go far enough.

Those who advocate better palliative care know nothing of the reality to which they wish to condemn others. When my life becomes a burden to me, it will be time to die rather than lingering and suffering the indignity of further existence. The Most Rev Desmond Tutu and Lord Carey understand this. They are brave to state their position so unequivocally.

Yvonne A Frith
Brimfield, Herefordshire

SIR – You quite rightly cite Holland and Belgium as examples of where legalising assisted suicide will lead.

It is hard not to compare this prospect with the 200,000 abortions now carried out in this country annually, which the 1967 Abortion Act was never intended to sanction. It may be convenient for society to turn a blind eye to the abuse of the abortion laws and to make it easier for patients to commit suicide. That doesn’t make it right.

Tim Coles
Carlton, Bedfordshire

SIR – In defending the existing legal protections for vulnerable people, Lord Carlile of Berriew makes a crucial point – Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, supposedly based on choice, ignores the realities of life as well as death.

No choice is made in a vacuum. Many elderly and disabled people live alone or fear to ask those closest to them for help. They even fear to “trouble” those who are paid to help them.

Strangely, the progressive answer to most social problems – raising self-esteem – has not been applied to this problem. Instead, Lord Falconer would lower the self-esteem of the sick even further by substantiating their private fears that their lives are not worth living. The Bill may apply only to the terminally ill, but there is a likelihood of “mission creep”.

We should heed the example of Holland and Belgium, but also that of abortion, which was lauded as the “right to choose”. The reality for many women is that in the absence of support from those closest to them, they feel they have no choice.

Ann Farmer
Woodford Green, Essex

Irish Times:

Sir, – Jimmy Deenihan has been appointed Minister of State for the diaspora. This can be viewed as further evidence of a recent and improving trend in the State’s relationship with the Irish abroad.

In the past 15 years alone, a dedicated “Irish Abroad Unit” has been established within the Department of Foreign Affairs, and exists alongside the Global Irish Economic Forum, the Global Irish Network, and immigration centres in Canada and Australia. These initiatives join the State’s Emigrant Support Programme, which funds almost 200 community organisations in over 20 countries, in a continued effort to recognise and invest in our citizens overseas.

Mr Deenihan himself has a long history of interest in this area. It is, as the Taoiseach put it, his “niche”. In a Dáil debate 23 years ago, he supported a Labour Party Bill that, if passed, would have allowed Irish citizens to retain voting rights in Ireland for a period of 15 years after emigrating. Debating that Bill in March 1991, he said: “Our emigrants have the potential to make a major contribution to our country. Many of them have been very successful in the various countries to which they emigrated and made contributions in different ways to life in those countries. By attracting their interest, giving them recognition and a feeling they have a role to play and a contribution to make in our country, we can only enhance our reputation as a caring nation.”

Mr Deenihan’s first order of business is likely to be issuing a response to last September’s constitutional convention, which ruled overwhelmingly in favour of allowing Irish citizens abroad to participate in Irish presidential elections.

The vast majority of modern democracies – over 130 states worldwide – have enacted provisions that count and account for their citizens overseas. Mr Deenihan, with a specifically developed portfolio and an proven interest in the diaspora, has an opportunity to modernise our attitude towards migration, citizenship, and the intersection of the two. – Yours, etc,


Rue Wayenberg,

Ixelles, Brussels;


Rue de l’Amiral Roussin,


A chara, – Further to the appointment of Ministers with responsibility for the Gaeltacht, our Taoiseach would be well advised to recall the words of Nelson Mandela, “If you speak to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. If you speak to him in his own language, it goes to his heart.” – Is mise,


Gort an tSeagail,

Achadh an Iúir,

Contae an Chábháin.

A chara, – Having a Minister of State who is responsible for Irish-language matters but who does not speak Irish sends out a poor message and will ensure snide remarks about Ireland.

The Irish state cannot be neutral about the Irish language. It is the only state that can support the Irish language.

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny should rectify this situation immediately by appointing himself an tAire Gaeltachta and make it a priority that Irish is properly supported by the State. – Is mise,


Rue Tony Dutreux,



Sir, – There was a minor controversy last year when the newly designed Irish passports began to be issued, and several people remarked on the background design of one of the pages, which incorporated images of musical instruments associated with Ireland. Those included were the accordion, banjo and bodhrán, relatively recent introductions to Irish music. The instruments that have won a global audience for Irish music, in former and in modern times – the harp and the uilleann pipes – were left out, and their absence was remarked upon and criticised by Kevin Conneff of The Chieftains, among others.

Now “Official Ireland” has done it again. A set of stamps was issued by An Post in May as part of the Europe-wide Europa series, on the theme “national musical instruments”.

The An Post website tells us that the stamps feature the harp, “the classic Irish musical instrument”, and the bodhrán, “the most popular”.

It is difficult to know how to respond. Difficult indeed not to feel that one’s leg is being pulled! The harp is indeed Ireland’s “classic musical instrument”, and the Irish harp attracted the attention and admiration of foreign observers for 700 years, from Norman times up to the beginning of the 19th century, when the unique Irish wire-strung harp ceased to be played. Examples of this instrument survive, the Trinity College harp, for instance, or Denis Hempson’s harp which is to be seen in the Guinness Storehouse.

Unfortunately the stamp designers chose to depict, not the kind of harp that was celebrated for centuries, but a 19th-century instrument – one that does not deliver the sound that entranced Europe for centuries.

As for the bodhrán being “the most popular instrument” in Irish music, I can only suggest that the question be put to the people who actually play the music, on pipes, harp, fiddle, flute, box, concertina, whistle or banjo.

No tune was ever played on a bodhrán, although the late lamented Sliabh Luachra fiddle player Paudie Gleeson raised many a smile with his yarn about the man in his district who “knew all the tunes”. The punchline was that this musical genius turned out to be a bodhrán player.

Those who hold and play the music continue to be slighted. There are national institutions that would readily provide any advice or information required – the Irish Traditional Music Archive, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and ourselves, to name only the most well-known. All that designers have to do is ask. – Yours, etc,



Na Píobairí Uilleann,

15 Henrietta Street,

Dublin 1.

Sir, – My mother is 90 years old and is recovering from a major operation in Tallaght Hospital. She has recovered sufficiently to go home with a homecare package but the HSE has cut the funding for this. My mother is in a surgical ward whose resources would be far better used for patients that need the care of a surgical team. The expense of this bed must far outweigh the expense of having a carer come in for a couple of hours a day. This would be for a short period until she could manage to look after herself as she had been doing prior to her operation. Is this the way the HSE is saving money? – Yours, etc,


Columbanus Road,

Dundrum, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Whenever the European Parliament gains more influence, commentators complain that is has “seized” or “grabbed” power, as though it had mounted an undemocratic coup or putsch.

They ignore the fact that the European Parliament is the only directly elected institution at the European level. Increasing its influence strengthens its capability to exercise democratic control over the activities of councils and commissions. Even the European Court of Justice will learn, like the US Supreme Court, to “keep an eye on the last election”.

If the European Parliament is to fulfil its potential, however, voters need to interest themselves in the work of their MEPs, and to keep constant pressure on them just as they (should) do on the members of their national parliaments. – Yours, etc,


Avenue Louise,


A chara, – Barbara Nolan (July 16th) cites an estimate that the Transatlantic Free Trade Area would benefit the EU economy by €119 billion – or €545 per person – but without including the necessary caveats from Joseph Francois’ report on the matter. The figures quoted are the upper estimates and are envisioned as realistic by 2027. Perhaps the public would be better informed if the negotiations were more open and transparent. – Is mise,



North Circular Road,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – Further to Simon Carswell’s “The highs and lows of legalised marijuana” (July 12th), which examined the legal status of the drug in the US, it is clear that the days when politicians could get away with confusing the drug war’s tremendous collateral damage with a comparatively harmless plant are coming to an end. If the goal of marijuana prohibition is to subsidise violent drug cartels and open a gateway to the harder drugs they sell, prohibition is a grand success. The drug war distorts supply and demand dynamics so that big money grows on little trees. If the goal is to deter use, marijuana prohibition is a catastrophic failure.

Consider the experience of the former land of the free and current record holder in citizens incarcerated. The United States has almost double the rate of marijuana use as the Netherlands, where marijuana is legally available. The criminalisation of people who prefer marijuana to martinis has no basis in science. The war on marijuana consumers is a failed cultural inquisition, not an evidence-based public health campaign. Ireland should follow the lead of Colorado and Washington state. It’s time to stop the pointless arrests and instead tax legal marijuana. – Yours, etc,


Common Sense

for Drug Policy,

PO Box 59181,

Washington, DC.

Sir, – Imagine this scenario. I am living in the United States and I buy a ticket to a Garth Brooks concert “subject to licence”. The licence was granted for the date shown on my ticket and the singer simply decided not to perform. The same situation applied to 240,000 other customers. Would those customers quietly accept this? Or would there instead be a class action lawsuit to bring the performer to his senses?

I am sure that Mr Brooks is relieved to be getting off so lightly from his long-abandoned Irish fans, otherwise more than his heart would be crushed. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – Our planning laws have been drawn up by members of the Oireachtas. These laws require council officials to make difficult decisions that balance different interests. Rather than publicly criticising officials for their decision-making, Oireachtas members should focus on amending the laws if they feel that they can be improved.– Yours, etc,




Co Dublin.

Sir, – I have avoided participating in the various campaigns on this issue; clean water costs money to supply, and deserves economical use. Metering is basically a good idea, as it discourages waste. I have, however, been appalled by the way metering policy has been imposed, with intrusive installation of an inaccessible meter at what must be a high cost. Has no-one system-analysed the options?

My initial concept was an accessible, legible meter at the house entry-point, usually the hallway, enabling a householder to keep tabs on house-water use easily. This idea of accessible house-based metering was rejected in favour of ripping up the footpath and installing a meter readable by the householder only with difficulty, if at all.

The reason given was that leakage in the in-pipe is a householder responsibility. This seems to me to be a high-cost solution to a low-cost problem.

It should be possible for a meter on a branch of the main system to keep track of the consumption in a group of houses served by the branch. This could be matched statistically with the consumption as recorded in the houses. A discrepancy would imply a leak. During a dry spell, portable instrumentation could be used to detect leak water locations, and the leak repaired. If the leak is in a house-feed pipe, the user would be charged a fee.

Would it perhaps be possible to pilot a system like this, in some area as yet unserviced, and keep an eye on the comparative costs, and user acceptance? – Yours, etc,


Rathmines Park,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – The re-emergence of “property ladder anxiety” is an unwelcome development. It appears to result from relentless price-hyping by the media, the presence of a wealthy investor class and the limited availability of houses in major cities. A strategic decision needs to be made by Government to encourage an increase in the availability of family homes. A reasonably simple approach would be to reduce capital gains tax from the currently (prohibitive) 33 per cent to 12.5 per cent for a limited period of time (for example, 18 months) on investment properties sold to owner occupiers. This would result in the liberation of many current rental houses to families, and would help level the playing field between cash buyers and those seeking mortgage finance. – Yours, etc,


Barna, Co Galwa

Sir, – As a reader of The Irish Times for the past 30 years, I am deeply concerned at your apparent attempt to undermine the asylum seeker accommodation system.

You have published three articles by various contributors, each setting out why the system should be abandoned while ignoring the reason it was introduced in the first place. In addition, you have published seven letters from readers criticising the system.

I have searched in vain for any article or letter from a contributor supporting the system.– Yours, etc,



Fr Russell Road, Limerick.

Sir, – “Buttevant’s ancient horse fair attracts eager crowd” (July 15th) states that a local historian claims Napoleon’s white Arabian horse Marengo was bought at Cahirmee fair. In fact the horse was born in Egypt and obtained by the emperor during his Egyptian campaign. Marengo was captured after the Battle of Waterloo and died in England some years later.

The article also finishes with the statement that the Duke of Wellington’s equally famous horse, Copenhagen, was “purchased at Cahirmee about 1810”. Wellington’s horse was first owned by Lord Grosvenor and named after the eponymous battle at which both Grosvenor and Wellington were brigade commanders. Grosvenor’s mare was in foal with Copenhagen at the Battle of Copenhagen and the foal was later raced, to little avail, before being purchased by another officer in the Peninsular War. The horse then passed into Wellington’s hands and stayed so until its death, when it was buried on Wellington’s Hampshire estate.

Horses and tall tales often go together. – Yours, etc,




A chara, – Like Prof Bert G Hornback (July 14th), I also “don’t want to walk down the vulgar, noisy Grafton Street”, with its music music everywhere, and nary a note to savour. Busking can be delightful, but when it is amplified and competing and clashing with itself and the ever-present muzak from the shops, it turns into muz-eeeeeek. – Is mise,


Tower Avenue,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – Limerick has many claims to fame, but it was not the birthplace of “the glamorous and dangerous Lola Montez” (An Irishman’s Diary, July 16th).

The adventuress and exotic dancer, whose affair with the king of Bavaria (grandfather of the even madder “Mad King Ludwig”) led to his downfall, was actually born in Grange, Co Sligo, between Ben Bulben and the Atlantic Ocean. – Yours, etc,


Cnoc an Stollaire,

Gaoth Dobhair, Co Donegal.

Sir, – I see John A Murphy (July 18th) has challenged Gerry Adams to a public debate. Will tickets be readily available, or will it be “subject to licence”? – Yours, etc,



Grange, Cork.

Sir, – I am producing a monograph of my paintings with Gandon Editions for 2015, and I would be so grateful if any of your readers, who may have my paintings, would be able to send me images of paintings that I made quite a long time ago. (elizabeth@elizabethcope.com) – Yours, etc,


Shankill Castle,


Co Kilkenny.

Irish Independent:

* Some time ago I had the chance to read an excellent piece written to commemorate the “death” of common sense which, I think you’ll agree, is very apt given that we live in the age of ubiquitous reality television and increasingly intrusive social media yet complain about government surveillance. We might then also mourn the passing of another age-old companion: realism. In my opinion, this long-time check on fantasy and delusion is sadly ‘knocking on heaven’s door’.

Several instances of this have been seen over the past few weeks and months but I would like to single out the British reaction to the MH17 disaster and US foreign policy towards the Ukraine crisis as being exceptional. In the wake of the downing of Malaysia Airlines‘ Flight 17, the international community is expected to do something to bring the perpetrators to some kind of justice. And rightly so. Those who commit such acts should be punished. But the politics of the situation in eastern Ukraine are taking precedence over law. No European state wants to annoy Russia. Yet governments are still desperate to be seen to be “doing something”.

US foreign policy on Ukraine is remarkably toothless. To put it simply, they are letting a bully get away with tearing up a state based on ethnic lines – something that most enlightened liberals would tell us no evolved state should do. A forceful response, perhaps the deployment of peacekeepers to the region would be a welcome sign of US resolve. Instead we have been treated to appeasement. Appeasement only makes the aggressor more aggressive.

Yet I do not think we in this country should get too cocky. Our history is saturated with examples of people who engaged in what common sense would state were stupid rebellions, determined to die romantic martyrs deaths with no thought given to a realistic prolonged struggle. The only one who bucked that trend was Michael Collins and he won.



* No truer words were expressed than those in the Irish Independent editorial (July 19) in response to the callous destruction of flight MH17. The absence of real leadership, genuine moral courage, or even a shared sense of humanity is sadly lacking across the globe among those who ought to abundantly demonstrate these qualities.

Regrettably, the bland and anaemic statement from our own Foreign Minister, Charles Flanagan, offered little to inspire. He remarked that Ireland “fully supports calls for a full, independent, investigation” to establish the cause of the destruction of MH17, without any elaboration. He advised that he is continuing to “monitor the situation closely through our embassies in Prague and The Hague“. But he did not state that he was actually going to do anything in response to this grotesque atrocity.

Are his remarks really the best possible expression of Ireland’s leadership, values, moral courage and shared sense of humanity in response to such a grievous attack on humanity by anonymous, camouflaged cowards? If so, our foreign policy has not advanced from the era of the ‘Skibbereen Eagle’, which, from time to time, admonished the British prime minister, the Russian emperor and the German emperor and reminded them that the Eagle ‘had its eye on you’.

The difference that ministers make is judged by what they do and accomplish; not by passive gestures and empty rhetoric.



* The recent comments of Senator Ned O’Sullivan should be put in a historical context.

The O’Sullivan name is said to be inherited from an ancestor, whose wounds in an ancient battle left him with only one eye.

The Irish for one eye is: suil amhain from which the name O’Sullivan is derived. However, the truth about how this injury was obtained is more prosaic. He was pecked in one eye by a seagull – a Dublin seagull! The Irish for seagull is Faoilean. Ever since, there has been enmity between the Dub O’Faoileans (seagulls), and the Kerry O’Sullivans (one-eyed Kerrymen). The accusation that a Dublin seagull stole a child’s lollipop, which was made on the floor of the Seanad, was a new low (oh the calumny!) in this long-running feud.

No detail was given as to the nature of the lollipop. Was it red, orange or yellow? Was it strawberry, raspberry or orange flavoured? The description of the child is also vague. Was it male or female? Did the child have flaxen, raven-coloured or red hair? Why haven’t the guards been told? Perhaps the reason for the lack of detail in his account is that one of Ned’s eyes ain’t so good. Ned also complained that the seagulls were making a racket on the roof of his apartment. One can only infer from this that Kerry seagulls are quite different. They do not engage in unseemly squawking and cackling as those Dub seagulls do. No, they engage with each other in soft melodic Kerry tweets.

No doubt the good senator has been overcome with homesickness for his native Kerry where the seagulls are more convivial company.



* Seamus French wonders why nobody has been held accountable for the current economic crisis (Letters, July 19). Has he not heard that Fianna Fail were decimated at General Election 2011? Does he not know that the flawless hindsight brigade decided Fianna Fail wrecked the economy and bankrupted the country?

We love a scapegoat in Ireland and Fianna Fail fitted the role perfectly. Labour as we all know is the scape-goat for having the neck to enter government to continue the harsh economic corrective measures started by Fianna Fail after the 2008 collapse.

Remember two reports provided in recent months. One was that €30bn had been borrowed on the equity of homes and €50bn borrowed by SMEs (50pc impaired) during the period we call the Celtic Tiger. These jaw-dropping reports spread the need for accountability a lot wider than the scapegoats we have already selected as our outlet for venom.



* Eamonn Meehan’s condemnation of Israel is full of inaccuracies (Letters, July 18). For one thing Israel is not “occupying” Gaza; it left Gaza in 2005. Over the years Gaza has received massive amounts of international aid but much of this has been dissipated through corruption by Hamas and on rocket sites for terrorist operations against Israel.

It is a sad state of affairs that a so-called human rights organisation like Trocaire never bothers to criticise Hamas for its treatment of Palestinians: its murder and torture of other Palestinians, and its oppression of Christians and women who are second-class citizens.

Israel is not “collectively punishing” Gaza as Mr Meehan suggests. Israel is fighting in Gaza solely and purely because Hamas is in control of Gaza and is in a state of war with Israel. It is Hamas which is inflicting collective punishment on the civilians of Gaza by using Palestinian civilians in Gaza as human shields. It is Hamas which began this latest conflict, it is Hamas which rejected a ceasefire brokered by Egypt on Tuesday, and it is Hamas which pointlessly keeps this conflict going.


Irish Independent


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